All-Star Game debut comes at right time for Barnes |


TORONTO – Scottie Barnes was so busy with the ups and downs of the Toronto Raptors’ season that he never gave himself a chance to process his first-ever All-Star Game appearance.

Raptors general manager Bobby Webster presented Barnes with an all-star ball during a brief pre-game ceremony ahead of Toronto’s 127-125 loss to the visiting Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. The all-star break began the next day for Barnes, with the game itself to be held on Sunday in Indianapolis.

“It’s still surreal to me, still crazy,” said Barnes, who was named to the East’s team on Feb. 6 as an injury replacement. “It’s crazy playing in the all-star game. It’s a dream.

“Nothing I’ve really thought about but it’s a dream, I guess. But I’m just so happy. I’m blessed.”

Barnes is averaging 20.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and six assists this season. He and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young will replace Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid and New York Knicks forward Julius Randle.

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Embiid (lateral meniscus injury in left knee) and Randle (dislocated right shoulder) will not play in the All-Star Game after being selected as a starter and a reserve, respectively.

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Although it will be Barnes’s first appearance in an all-star game, it won’t be his first time participating in the weekend-long festivities. He played in the rookie-sophomore games in his first and second years in the league.

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“I had an amazing experience so being able to play an all-star game I know it’s going to be exciting,” said Barnes. “It’s going to be a fun weekend.”

Toronto’s (19-36) season hasn’t been a lot of fun.

The front office dismantled the team in four deals ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline, dealing away three of the team’s starters from the beginning of the season. Defensive stalwart OG Anunoby was sent to the New York Knicks, all-star forward Pascal Siakam was dealt to Indiana, and veteran point guard Dennis Schroder was traded to the Brooklyn Nets.

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That made the 22-year-old Barnes the face of the franchise, focal point of head coach Darko Rajakovic’s offence, and de facto locker room leader. The latter is a responsibility that hasn’t always come easily to Barnes.

Barnes left the bench early during a demoralizing 122-99 loss to the lowly San Antonio Spurs on Monday, an act that Siakam had been suspended for by the team years earlier. He later acknowledged that he has to improve his body language in games too.

Rajakovic said he and Barnes had spoken about the importance of consistent effort and remaining positive, even when he’s on the bench.

“It’s going to be a ride. It’s going to be journey,” said Rajakovic. “I don’t expect from him to be perfect, but I expect him to learn from his mistakes, and not to make the same mistakes.

“I want him to make a different mistake, and to learn from that one, and to get better. And to make another mistake, and learn from that one, and move forward.”

Siakam, who led the Pacers to victory in Toronto on Wednesday, also advised Barnes on what it takes to be the most important voice in a locker room.

“It’s going to be a lot of ups and downs,” said Siakam. “There’s going to be things that’s not going to look so good and there’s going to be days where it’s going to be amazing, it’s going to be great.

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“I think that he’s just got to be able to take those kind of waves and as he continues to learn from it, he’s going to grow. He’s going to get better at it and as long as his head is in the right place.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2024.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press


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