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Harrison Barnes a 'calming influence' for Sacramento, says Luke Walton

Former champion with Golden State is now a veteran in a reunification role with his coach.

Sunday 1 December 2019 13:27, UK

Harrison Barnes scores two of his game-high 30 points on Saturday
Image: Harrison Barnes scores two of his game-high 30 points on Saturday

It is no surprise that Sacramento coach Luke Walton leans on Harrison Barnes when things get tough.

The two have championship history together, back when Walton was a young assistant coach at Golden State and Barnes was a starter on the Warriors' title team in 2015, and record-setting squad that fell short in 2016.

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Walton referred to Barnes as a "calming influence" for the Kings, a quality the veteran forward showed in a comeback win over Denver on Saturday.

Denver Nuggets against Sacramento Kings in Week 6 of the NBA 1:53
Highlights from the Denver Nuggets’ visit to the Sacramento Kings in Week 6 of the NBA season

Barnes scored six of his season-high 30 points in overtime, as the shorthanded Kings rallied to beat the Nuggets 100-97.

"That's largely my role, to come in to help where needed," Barnes said. "Some nights it's scoring. Some nights it's rebounding, some night it's defense. Some nights it's simply just making the right play. That's something I try to do consistently for this team."

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Barnes' leadership has become much more valuable while Sacramento play without injured starters De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III. He helped stabilise the Kings after they trailed by 17 at half-time, then came up big in overtime when he nearly outscored Denver by himself.

"Tonight he showed again why he's so important to us on both ends of the court," Walton said. "It was a good, solid win for our group, one that we needed and we worked for."

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Sacramento did not lead until Barnes made a jumper early in overtime. Gary Harris' three-pointer put the Nuggets up 95-94, but Barnes answered with two free throws and scored on a short lean-in shot.

Harris made two free throws before Buddy Hield answered with two of his own to help Sacramento end a six-game losing streak against Denver.

The Kings became the third team this season to win after trailing by 17 at half-time, joining Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers.

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'Just rock solid'

Barnes, a former standout college player at North Carolina, was drafted as the seventh overall pick by the Warriors in 2012.

He formed a young nucleus of talent among fellow draftees Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but was let go by Golden State once Kevin Durant was signed during the 2016 offseason.

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Despite Golden State's run of success with Durant, head coach Steve Kerr recently lamented losing Barnes' presence on and off the court on a podcast.

"Harrison is one of my favourite players that I've coached, and one of my favourite people," he told The Ringer. "He's just rock solid, and so we really missed him when he left."

Barnes signed a lucrative contract with Dallas in 2016 and boosted his scoring average from 11.7 to 19.2 points per game in the 2016-2017 season. But after two-and-a-half seasons with the Mavericks, the 27-year-old was traded to Sacramento in February as Dallas looked to rebuild around Luka Doncic.

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Reuniting with Walton was a welcome move for Barnes, who spoke highly of his coach before the season.

"One of the greatest attributes as a coach is the ability to relate and connect with his players," Barnes told The Athletic.

"If you can't reach a locker room, no matter who you've got out there, this league has shown you that will not work. So I think his ability to have guys' respect, to be able to coach in a way gives everyone the opportunity to thrive, but also promotes a winning style of basketball."

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