NBA veteran Matt Barnes capped off a 14-year career in the league with the achievement many veterans are desperate to experience before their playing days are over: an NBA championship.
And yet, Barnes doesn’t quite see it that way.
During an episode of his All the Smoke podcast with fellow NBA vet Stephen Jackson, Barnes had something to say when guest Tracy McGrady said getting a ring via the 2013 San Antonio Spurs — for whom he played a total of 31 postseason minutes — would not have been satisfying.
“When people say you won a ring, I don’t count that for the exact same reason you said. I was playing good. I came in when KD went down, played consistent 20, 25 minutes a game. KD comes back, I get hurt maybe a week before the playoffs, and I’m out of it. Worst ankle sprain of my life, I’m not healthy until the end of the second round where they’re already 8-0.
“So, me being a vet, knowing they’re not gonna change the rotation, I don’t expect them to change the rotation. I’m just gonna sit here and be a super vet and cheer these motherf—ers on, talk to people when they need to be talking to and just enjoy the ride. We did win it, but — god, it’s amazing to hear you say — I don’t count that ring … I don’t count that as a championship.”
Barnes also said he didn’t even hold onto the ring, which is apparently in the office of Warriors senior vice president of communications Raymond Ridder right now.
Is Barnes right about his Warriors ring?
The discourse on whether or not an ancillary player on a championship team really won a ring is well-established by now, and Barnes’ honesty is somewhat refreshing. No one is going to ascribe the 2016-17 championship to Barnes, but — as Barnes mentions — he still did contribute to a championship team and his name will forever be on the roster for that team.
The ugly side of the debate reared its head with last season’s champions when the Toronto Raptors opted to not give rings to three players it had traded midseason, but did give one to Drake, for some reason. If those players — Delon Wright, CJ Miles and Jonas Valanciunas — had not performed as well as they did earlier in the season, they might not be enough to land center Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies.
Without Gasol’s defense on Joel Embiid, maybe the Raptors don’t escape the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. For reasons like that, the butterfly effect of things going right required to win a championship, franchises err well on the side of caution when deciding which contributors get rings.
And who knows, Barnes might not want the ring now, but maybe he or his family will want one someday.
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