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Harrison Barnes is making defense and rebounding a priority, not worried about proving he can score

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The Kings’ newest addition wants to fit in and make an impact any way he can.

Kimani Okearah

Harrison Barnes has filled a void at the small forward position spot that the Kings have had since Rudy Gay left, but since being traded from the Dallas Mavericks, the veteran is still finding his way in Sacramento.

Barnes has found himself struggling a bit on the offensive end while trying to mix in with a team full of scorers (the Scores are here!). He is providing some much-needed depth in other areas, however. The team has long needed a switchable three-four man who could match up with opposing players at the position, and that is where he fits regardless of what he is providing on offense.

In his seven games with the Kings, Barnes is averaging 11 points on 35 percent from the field and 27 percent from three, well below his career shooting percentages (44 percent from the field and 36 percent from three). He also averaged 17.7 points in 49 games in Dallas this season. On the other hand, in his short tenure with the Kings, he’s averaging 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. (His career averages there are 4.9 rebounds and .7 steals.)

After finishing with 15 points, 14 rebounds (a career high), 1 block and 1 steal in Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the 26-year-old expressed confidence that he will get into a groove offensively. After all, he is a guy who scored 25-plus points in back to back playoff games against the San Antonio Spurs in his rookie season, and averaged 18.3 points per games over the last three seasons (including this season).

Here is what he had to say.

On his offense and finding other ways to impact the game:

“On this team, there’s definitely a lot of people who can score the basketball. So, we put up 140 points tonight, scoring is not really an issue for us, defense is though. It’s hard to beat teams when you give up 141. So, I think that is where I am trying to make the biggest impact, just trying to go out there, guard, help guys defensively and try to go from there.”

“We’re having just some difficulties right now locking in collectively and getting consistent stops so trying to help with that and help with rebounding really, I think those are the two areas which I can impact, and really kind of get in there and have a presence.”

“Scoring the basketball, that’s something I can do, I’ve done at a high level, so I know that I can do that, I don’t need to prove that, but when you want to win basketball games, you do whatever it takes. So, if that means I need to focus on defense and get rebounds, and do whatever I need to do, fill in the gaps, then I’ll do it to the best of my ability and we’re right there in terms of winning these games.”

On grabbing 14 rebounds against the Bucks:

“This team, especially with the way Giannis [Antetokounmpo] plays, they are a hard team to guard. They get wide-open threes, and just making sure that when we work so hard with our trapping and just flying around to get that stop that we don’t give them extra possessions, that we don’t allow [Eric] Bledsoe to get a rebound and kick it out to Brook Lopez for a three, or we don’t allow Khris Middleton, if we did a good job on him, to get an extra wide open look.”

On how playing power forward instead of small forward changes the dynamic of the team:

“Rebounding really, I mean we have a lot of possessions, especially in these close games where we’re giving up offensive rebounds. I think that’s where we have to be better and especially when I’m playing the four. At the three, we have our bigs in there who are very athletic, we’re gifted to have a lot bigs who can rebound, but especially at the four we’re a little undersized so making sure you’re just on those rebounds, giving us those extra possessions, closing out good defensive plays when we play 23 seconds of good basketball and then we give up the extra possession and they get a wide open three.”

“It’s the reality of playoff basketball. Every team is going to be extremely talented, and when you work so hard to get that stop, you have to close it out with a rebound, and that’s where we have to just get better.”

On having Bogdan Bogdanovic play small forward while he is at power forward:

“Bogi is a great player, he can play-make, he can play pick and roll, he can get guys the ball, he can score, so me and him, we have pretty good chemistry. We spend a lot of time off the court talking about basketball, and he’s a basketball junkie so we’re talking about overseas stuff, we’re talking about NBA stuff, past/present, all that type of stuff.”

On how big Friday’s game against the Clippers is given the standings:

“The approach that we have right now is every game is the most important, we can’t look at certain games and cherry pick and say this game or that game, right now there is so much movement going on in the standings that every game is important and as long as we just continue to focus on the next one, take care of that. We’ve had some close games so we’re due for a win right here.”