OAKLAND –Somewhere behind the excellence of the Warriors, obscured by the matchless entertainment provided by The Steph Curry Show and the roaring fire that is Draymond Green, sits Harrison Barnes.
But because there are moments when Barnes seems to shrink before our eyes, you have to look carefully to see him.
With the Warriors commanding the global stage like never before in franchise history, Barnes lately is most notable for his relative ineffectiveness, for making marginal impact despite being a starter for the best team in the NBA.
His timing is horrible. Barnes reportedly rejected a lucrative contract extension, $64 million over four years, and becomes a restricted free agent in July. The Warriors have a decision to make, and Barnes knows it. At this rate, his stock is falling.
Barnes is, put simply, jeopardizing his future.
He is shooting 30 percent (12 of 30) over his last six games, including 0-of-12 beyond the arc. Over his last 10 games, the 6-foot-8 forward is shooting 43.7 percent overall, 13 percent beyond the arc.
Barnes’ inaccuracy stands out because no player on the Warriors gets more open looks, particularly beyond the arc. They also stand out because Barnes in the 10 games prior shot 48.8 percent (20 of 41) from deep.
It’s as if the North Carolina product, drafted seventh overall in 2012, suddenly has forgotten how to shoot.
“The wide-open layups, that’s the most frustrating part,” Barnes said after practice Tuesday, referring to his recent struggles. “Three-point jump shots, that’s one thing. But when you’re missing the bunnies, that’s when you’re just sitting there, like, ‘Are you serious?’
“Because there’s no practice you can do about that. You can’t come in here and do more (drills). That’s just touch. That part’s been frustrating, but everything else has been fun.”
It doesn’t look like fun. Nor does it feel like fun, from an individual point of view.
Not when Barnes, 23, is getting clobbered on social media. Not when the exasperation creeps across his face. Not when needs six games – and 186 minutes – to score 38 points.
Not when the Warriors have seen better from Barnes, even though his production always has followed a zigzag trajectory.
Coach Steve Kerr says Barnes is going through a rough stretch, something all players endure. Assistant coach Ron Adams says Barnes needs to relax, and maybe Adams is onto something.
It’s entirely possible Barnes’ game is affected by his uncertain future. His last 20-point game was in November, and his Player Efficiency Rating (12.37) has fallen below that of young guard Ian Clark – even that which big man Jason Thompson had before he was waived last month.
Barnes, who earlier this season missed five weeks, including all of December, with a sprained ankle, says he “feels good.” He adds that when his shot is off he tries to find other ways to contribute. And in some games, he does exactly that.
The Warriors, for the moment, are accepting of this. But they surely want more. Expect more. They believe more is there, somewhere, if only Barnes would dig it out.