LOS ANGELES -- As Matt Barnes changes in front of his locker, his 6-year-old twins, Isaiah and Carter, are swinging bags of ice at each other and asking their dad when they can leave.
"In a little bit," Barnes says as he buttons up his shirt and puts on his socks. "Keep it down. We'll talk all the way on the drive home. You guys are staying with me tonight."
Last season and before this summer, there would never be a question about where the twins were staying or who would be driving them to whose home, but that was before Barnes and his wife, Gloria Govan, were involved in a divorce being played out in public by the tabloids.
"It's tough. When you're going through a divorce it's hard,” Barnes told ESPN.com. “We still have to show up and play. We go through the same things the rest of the world goes through, but we still have to perform on the biggest stage, so I can't let that become an excuse."
Barnes doesn't want to use his divorce as an excuse, but admits having his world turned upside down off the court hasn't helped matters on the court. Through the first seven games of the season, Barnes was averaging just 6.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game and was taken out of the starting lineup the past two games before returning on Saturday against the Phoenix Suns.
With his sons in the stands and some semblance of normalcy returned to his life, Barnes played his best game of the season, scoring 12 points and being far more active on defense.
"To me it really doesn't matter if I start,” Barnes said. "I just want to work myself back in, whether I'm starting or coming off the bench. I've had a tough start early on, a lot of s--- off the court going on, but I'm starting to figure it out and play better, so whether that's coming off the bench or starting, it doesn't really matter to me."
Barnes' night was cut short during the Clippers' 120-107 win over the Suns after he received two questionable technical fouls that Barnes said wouldn't have been called if they were made by another player. He got one for going up for a layup against Anthony Tolliver after the whistle was called, and another for spiking the ball and catching it in frustration after a play.
"I've really made a conscious effort to cool out, and if those are technicals it's going to be a long season," he said. "Fortunately it didn't cost us, but it's crazy."
Barnes' teammates came to his side over the summer and have continued to be there as Barnes deals with his divorce, trying to see his kids and dealing with early struggles on the court.
“I think we do forget sometimes that we're humans,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Things go on in your life, and if we think it doesn't affect you as a player, then we're nuts.”
It's easy to point the finger at the Clippers' weakness at small forward when looking at their early-season struggles. Barnes has been dreadful from 3-point range, hitting just 31.8 percent of his attempts, and hasn't been very good as a defender, with Rivers often noting the team's lack of a defensive wing. But the Clippers have been willing to ride with Barnes through this tough time, focusing more on him as a teammate than a player quantified by analytics.
"From a fan's perspective, they want us to be robots," DeAndre Jordan said. "And we're not. We're humans. Everyone is going to go through tough times and we have to be there for each other."
Not only has Barnes grown closer with his teammates over the past three seasons, but so have his kids -- his twins are often playing with Chris Paul's son or Jamal Crawford's son, and they will often go to each other's houses on off days.
"They've been great," Barnes said. "The majority of the guys on the team know what I'm going through, and they're very supportive. They know when I'm down to talk to me. Everybody has been great here. It's been a great support system. Between my team and my kids, that's really all I got right now."
As Barnes ties his shoes and gets ready to leave the locker room, he looks at his twins jumping up and down in front of him and smiles.
"I love them," Barnes said. "Besides winning, that's the best thing to see in the world -- being able to see their smiling faces and hanging out with them. I'm going to get my game on track, and I'll be that same player when counted on all last year. It's been hard, but I'll be back soon."