Harrison Barnes has signed with Adidas heading into his first season, and while attending an event at the Adidas Village in Portland, Ore., I had a chance to briefly catch up with the rookie about his transition to the NBA.
Barnes was projected as early as the second overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, but after falling to the Golden State Warriors at No. 7, he just may have fallen into the perfect situation.
The former North Carolina Tar Heel joins a team with loads of young talent and a legitimate chance to make the postseason as early as his rookie season.
His isolation game needs work at the next level, but in such a fast-paced system, his ability to run the floor and shoot the ball will be welcomed additions to his new squad.
Bleacher Report: The 2012 draft class is being touted as one of the deepest classes to come along in a long time. What do you guys have to do to meet expectations?
Harrison Barnes: We’ve just got to come in there humble. Obviously, guys are gonna be older and they’ll know more, but I think if we just come in and work as hard as we can, earn our keep, we’ll be just fine.
Have you gotten to know many of your teammates?
Yeah, I knew a few of them before I came in, and then summer league helped a lot. Some of the older guys came out to summer league to support, and we’ve had some trades; some of those guys came out as well. So I’ve had a chance to bond with a lot of those guys.
How well do you think you fit in with the roster as it is right now?
I feel great. The Warriors play a good style, and we have good pieces around us—around me, especially. So it’s a chance for me to win.
You guys play an uptempo style. How do you think that caters to your game?
It’s a perfect transition from college. We played fast at [North] Carolina, so just playing fast here in Golden State will help me transition a lot easier, and I like playing up and down.
Can you be the best shooter on that team?
(Laughs) I don’t know, I think Klay [Thompson] might have that spot, but I’m trying to go for best scorer.
What would you say up to this point has been the biggest transition, going from a college basketball player just a few months back to being a professional athlete here today?
I guess the whole lifestyle change. I mean, when you’re a college basketball player, you focus on school and basketball. Now as a professional, you have to focus on basketball, the business, your life and your family’s life as well, whether you’re taking care of your mom, your sister or whoever’s in your party.
With the pieces that you guys have on the Warriors right now, do you picture your team pushing for a playoff spot sooner rather than later?
I mean, you obviously want to compete for that. That’s one of our goals, obviously, is this year to try and make the playoffs, but you never know. You never know who’s going to get hurt, whether it’s on our team or somebody else’s team, so you do your thing and just try and come in and develop winning habits and see how it goes.
Heading into the draft, there wasn’t much talk about your athleticism, but the closer we got to the draft itself, the scouts starting calling you a great overall athlete. Is that something you worked on, or was that there all along?
(Laughs) I mean, I always had a little bit of athleticism, but I definitely worked on it a lot until the pre-draft. I had a great strength and conditioning coach in Robin Pound, who definitely helped me out a lot, and I was able to make some big strides in terms of just working on my athleticism and just really honing in.
Is it a testament to your scoring ability and your shooting ability that your athleticism sort of took a back seat to your skill set?
(Laughs) I don’t know about that, but hopefully I can definitely use my athleticism a lot more at this level, and hopefully it will help me score easier.
Having been around this 2012 draft class as much as you have been, who do you think will win the Rookie of the Year award?
Oh, I mean, there’s lots of great candidates. Obviously, you know there’s Anthony Davis and [Michael] Kidd-Gilchrist, and Damian Lillard is extremely talented. So, I mean just whoever does the best individually and helps their team out the most.
How can you win it?
I think we’d have to go to the playoffs; that’d be a big thing. And if I was to contribute to that, I feel like I’d have an opportunity to win that award.
Generally, what do you expect from your rookie season both on and off the court?
I guess off the court, just acclimating to the Bay Area and trying to get involved and do community service. On the court, obviously you want to contribute right away. I want to come in and have an opportunity to compete for a starting spot.
If I can get that done, I want to contribute on the big stage, obviously, in terms of scoring points and getting rebounds.