Matt Barnes was at the RDV SportsPlex, today, albeit in a hurry because he had a plane to catch in a few hours. In any case, Barnes took the time to speak with the media and answer inquiries regarding him signing with the Orlando Magic as a free agent. I was at the press conference and was able to ask Barnes a number of questions.
It was said that Dwight Howard helped recruit you to join the Orlando Magic. What did he say to you that ultimately convinced you to sign with the team?
Well, we had the same agent and he hit me up ... out of the blue ... I think it was two weeks ago and was just, 'where do you stand?, where do you stand?'. I was like, you guys are at the top of my list. It just really hasn't been any budging and like six hours later, my agent calls me back and they offered me a contract so, I called him and thanked him [Dwight Howard] for that and I'm very excited. When the best player on the team wants you here, it makes you feel good.
Did you speak to anyone else, besides Dwight?
I haven't spoken to anyone else. I've been kind of busy a lot myself, but Dwight has been the one person I've constantly kind of stayed in contact since he texted me a couple of weeks ago.
Has Stan Van Gundy spoken with you about your role, yet?
Briefly. He said he has his four starters, in Jameer [Nelson], Vince [Carter], Rashard [Lewis], and Dwight, and me and Pietrus will battle it out to kind of see who that other starter is but Pietrus and I did the same thing in Golden State, so we're good friends. It'll be a tough battle but at the same time, we're teammates and whoever is out there, we're going to be rooting and hoping to give the best.
How does it feel to be able to play with a former teammate in Mickael Pietrus?
It's fun. Pietrus is a funny guy, a good guy, so I'm excited to play with him again, as well.
It was stated in the San Francisco Chronicle a few years back that you were close to trying out for the NFL had things didn't work out with the Golden State Warriors. Looking at where your career is at now, how do you feel about everything?
That was a legitimate ... I gave myself one more year with the Golden State thing and in the first year, we went to the playoffs and we beat Dallas but I had 7 NFL teams ready to give me a walk-on tryout. I was dead serious about making the jump but I'm glad Golden State worked out and these last three to four years have been great and it brought me here today. I'm very excited to be here.
What was it like playing against Brandon Bass last year, given you were in Phoenix and he was in Dallas?
He's tough, he's strong, he's an oxe, so I'm glad that I'll be playing with him instead of against him. When I saw that you guys picked him up earlier in the season, I said that was a good pickup. He's a very tough, strong player.
LeBron was out of the country, while I was talking. Up until the ESPYs, I talked to Mike [Brown] the day of the ESPYs and I went home and I went to Washington to go see my grandparents and Dwight phoned me while I was there, and here I am.
The biggest storyline that should come out of Barnes' comments is that he stated he may battle it out with Mickael Pietrus to decide who will be the fifth starter on the Magic, once the regular season begins. This should come as no surprise, since it was inferred to Third Quarter Collapse by a source familiar with the team's plans and reported by the Orlando Sentinel that Stan Van Gundy was leaning on maintaining the unconventional lineup that took Orlando to the NBA Finals this past season.
While nothing is official, it appears Barnes and Pietrus may vie for a starting spot.
UPDATE: Or maybe not. Via the Orlando Sentinel:
I contacted Van Gundy after the press conference, and Van Gundy said he told Barnes what he's been saying all along: that Brandon Bass could start at power forward. And if that happens, Rashard Lewis would move to his natural position of small forward. That would mean Barnes and Pietrus would come off the bench.
Now, as Van Gundy also noted, Lewis certainly could remain at the 4, and then Barnes and Pietrus indeed would compete for the starting small-forward spot..