“It was a tough situation for all of us,” Barnes told ESPN in his first interview on the situation since the trade. “They were so adamant about not trading him. I mean, I understand this is a business and you got to do what’s best for the franchise, but when you go out of your way time and time again to say you’re not going to do something and then do something and not consulting someone is a funny way of handling it, to say the least.”
Barnes played 54 games with Cousins this season before being released in February, shortly after the big man was shipped to New Orleans. Even though Barnes is 11 years his senior, he and Cousins instantly clicked and were inseparable.
They confided in one another and would hang out together during their off time. Both known for their fiery tempers and questionable behavior, perhaps it was inevitable that a long-lasting relationship would be established.
Their union wouldn’t go without controversy, however. Barnes and Cousins were sued by two people after an alleged assault in December at a New York nightclub. Cousins was cleared of all wrongdoing, but Barnes will face trial on June 27.
On Thursday, the NBA fined Cousins $50,000 for “directing inappropriate language toward fans” on a few occasions. He’s still in the midst of his maturation process.
“He’s a good dude, man,” Barnes said to ESPN of Cousins. “He’s young and he’s emotional. And I think that’s why we connected because I was a similar way, even though I’m still kind of old and emotional now. All he wants to do is win, and sometimes that gets the best of us. I think he’s judged unfairly, but the league and the world needs bad guys and that’s what we’ve done for them. So we give them the bad guys.”
Barnes witnessed firsthand how the trade speculation affected Cousins before the All-Star break. With rumors swirling, general manager Vlade Divac publicly stated that their center wasn’t going anywhere. Barnes said Cousins tried to brush it off as a professional, but he said it clearly had a negative impact on the star and the team.
Barnes understands the Kings had doubts about giving Cousins a $200 million extension in the summer. He gets the business. But throughout his 13-year career that included stops with nine different teams, Barnes said he’s never observed an organization handle a player -- let alone an All-Star player -- in such a deceiving manner.
“Nah, never. That was bad. That was a bad way it went down,” Barnes said to ESPN. “But you know, my hat’s off to DeMarcus the way he handled it. To give everything he gave to that franchise and for it to go down the way it went down at the end is a tough pill to swallow. But he stayed professional and said the right things. Even though he may have felt another way, he said the right stuff and that’s all that matters.”
With Cousins gone, Barnes knew he had to exit, too. His exodus led to greener pastures.
“Once I saw them trading him and what they got back, I figured they were in a rebuilding process,” he said. “They knew I wanted to win now. I don’t have time to rebuild. So, the next day, I was gone as well. So, it’s the business. I’m thankful for the opportunity, but I couldn’t be happier being here with the Golden State Warriors.”
His impact is already being felt in his new locker room.
“He just adds that extra toughness and that veteran presence,” Draymond Green said. “He fits right in with who we are and it’s only going to get better from here. I’m happy he’s here.”