Harrison Barnes isn't playing like a rookie

Harrison Barnes isn't playing like a rookie
April 25, 2013, 8:45 pm
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Harrison Barnes averaged 9.2 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 81 games for the Warriors this season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

When it comes to Harrison Barnes' case for first-team all-rookie, Warriors coach Mark Jackson looks no further than one telling stat.

Barnes is the only rookie who started regularly for a playoff team.

"You can overlook him as far as first-team all-rookie when you look at numbers," Jackson said. "But to me it'd be a shame if he wasn't because of where we are and he's played a huge part of our success."

With David Lee out for the rest of the playoffs, Barnes, by default, saw an increased role in Game 2 against Denver and responded with his best game of the season. His career-high 24 points -- highlighted by a memorable reverse dunk -- showcased the type of player he can be and seemingly validated Jackson's case for postseason accolades.

Said Jarrett Jack on the dunk: "I'm still trying to fathom how he was able to muster that dunk in. It was definitely one the best plays I've seen playing basketball, period."

Barnes might not have eye-popping averages across the board, but he did rank fourth among rookies in scoring (9.2) despite playing in an offense that clearly was not designed to get him shots. He spent most of the season deferring to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and others, but Jack said he's at a place now where that doesn't have to be the case.

"I think just being sure of himself (is what has changed)," Jack said. "Picking spots so to speak. Sometimes you have to force the issue to get him going. "

At this point, Jack refuses to refer to the Warriors' trio of rookie contributors -- Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green -- as rookies.

"As far as being on the court, they've pretty much seen everything and been put in every situation a player can be put in throughout the season," Jack said. "With that type of experience and the learning curve they've had throughout the season, we don't look at them as rookies anymore."

For a playoff team to use three rookies in its rotation is rare. The Warriors are the only team in this year's playoffs to do it and, including Kent Bazemore (2 minutes), are the only team that's had more than two rookies see more than one minute of postseason court time.

Entering Thursday, the rookies from Chicago, Brooklyn, Miami, Boston, the Clippers, the Lakers, Memphis, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Indiana, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Denver have combined for less minutes in the playoffs (102) than Golden State's (108).

During the regular season, Barnes, Ezeli and Green all ranked in the top 22 in minutes played among rookies. The only other "rookie" on a playoff team in that range was 35-year-old European import Pablo Prigioni. The injury to Lee and the physical limitations Bogut has, that early playing time provided dividends in Game 2 and should continue to throughout the series.

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