It won’t be a national media headline-grabber similar to Kevin Durant’s recent first game against Oklahoma City.
But Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut will get their share of attention when their new team — the Dallas Mavericks — faces the Golden State Warriors at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.
It will be the first game for Barnes and Bogut against the Warriors, after both played the previous four seasons in Oakland. And if the Mavericks’ two newest starters are eager to show their old employers how well they’re doing without them, they’re not saying.
Barnes and Bogut said they’re focused on the Mavericks, not on what’s happening with a Warriors’ club that’s stacked with All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Durant. In fact, when asked if the Warriors are a better team now because of all the moves they made last summer, Bogut said, “I really don’t know and I’m not really too interested in it too much. It’ll play itself out. I’m worried about the Mavericks. But we’ll see. Time will tell.”
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The Warriors failed to sign Barnes to a contract when he became a free agent this summer. Then they traded Bogut to the Mavericks, thus giving them the final necessary money to sign Durant, who left Oklahoma City.
Barnes, 24, signed a four-year, $94 million contract with the Mavericks. And the big contract keeps coming up in conversation after conversation.
“I don’t think that really is going to affect him too much,” Bogut said. “I think he’s one of the most professional guys I’ve been around for a guy his age.
“Usually guys figure out what he’s figured out when they’re 29, 30, 31, and they start getting injured. He’s in the gym every day, he does everything off the court he can to better himself as a basketball player and a professional athlete, so I don’t think you’ll have an issue.”
Barnes has flourished thus far. He made a late 3-pointer to send the season opener at Indiana into overtime.
And Barnes has reached the 30-point barrier in two of the past five games. By contrast, in 307 career games coming into this season — all with the Warriors — Barnes scored as many as 30 points only once.
“I’ll have the ball in my hands a lot more, but that doesn’t necessarily mean to score,” Barnes said of his role with the Mavericks. “There are a lot of guys who are capable here, so with the ball in my hands more it’ll be to draw two defenders and kick, or to be smart in my decision-making.
“It won’t just be necessarily every time you get it, go score.”
Barnes started at small forward and Bogut at center as the Warriors captured the 2015 NBA title. They also were in the starting lineup last season when the Warriors set an NBA regular-season record for wins with 73.
However, that squad also blew a 3-1 lead to Cleveland and lost last season’s NBA Finals in seven games.
“Obviously it didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish with that record that we got, but playing for coach [Steve Kerr] was great,” Bogut said. “He’s very laid-back, he’s a very smart guy, he’s worked and played for some of the best coaches of all time, and I think he’s taken little things from all of them.
“He has a little bit of feelings in him as well, philosophically, where he’ll sometimes look at things outside of basketball and try and help you out, or if you’re having a bad game or whatever it is. I think most of the guys on the team really respect him for that.”
Dirk Nowitzki, who will miss the game against the Warriors as he continues to recover from a sore right Achilles tendon, can see the passion coming from Barnes.
“I think Harrison is a great guy and he’s going to fit in perfectly,” Nowitzki said. “We want him to do a lot on offense, we want him to get better on the pick-and-roll, we want him to post some, we’re going to spot him [up] some, I think we want to play him on the move some.
“I think it’s going to be fun to play with him and he’s definitely putting in the work. He wants to be great, and a guy like that you have to root for him to succeed.”
So far this season Bogut averages career highs in defensive rebounds (9.4) and total rebounds (11.4). Meanwhile, Barnes is averaging career highs in scoring (20.8) and rebounding (6.5), and in field-goal attempts, field goals made, field-goal percentage, free-throw attempts, free throws made and free-throw percentage.
“It’s going to be bigger expectations and I’m going to have a larger role on this team,” Barnes said. “But the biggest thing I’ve learned in my four years of being in this league is winning is the biggest priority, so I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team win.
“I feel like we have a lot of pieces this year either coming back off injuries, guys who are motivated and have a lot to prove. Hopefully, we can all come together and do something special.”