matt barnes: an article…

  

At Home in Alameda

Warriors Forward Matt Barnes Finds a Sanctuary

At Home in Alameda

Photo by Lara Hata

    In a nook adjacent to the Harbor Bay Safeway, overlooking a scenic pond, Golden State Warriors forward Matt Barnes steals a moment. Posted near the edge of the platform, ducks swimming near his feet, he gazes at the houses across the water. Eyes squinted and jaw tightened, he absorbs the sharp evening breeze, white T-shirt and jeans shorts hanging from his slender, 6-foot, 7-inch frame.
    For a couple minutes, he stands and stares.
    “It’s quiet, peaceful, away from everything,” he says. “I just walk around sometimes and think. It’s just nice.”
    Barnes, 27, doesn’t fit the athlete stereotype. He’s as down-to-earth as they come, genuine and humble—a stark contradiction to the “spoiled” Post-it note that seems affixed to the back of most NBA players. Having been the underdog his entire career, he is used to working for what he gets and without much fanfare.
    So it makes sense that he makes his home in Alameda’s Harbor Bay. One wouldn’t think such a family-oriented setting would appeal to a rich, young, single man. But Barnes doesn’t live the cliché athlete lifestyle. He doesn’t want to live in the middle of a bustling city, with constant noise, endless traffic and a glaring spotlight. He doesn’t want to always be in the middle of the action, or party like it’s 1999.
    To be sure, he’s not averse to having fun. His web of tattoos and his trendy wardrobe are evidence that he’s as hip as you’d expect. Still, being part of what’s happening isn’t what bakes his cake; he’d rather be chillin’ under the radar.
    That’s why Alameda is a good match. Laidback, yet posh. Underappreciated, yet fulfilling. Secluded, yet inviting.
    “I’m not a city person,” he says. “I’ve never been a city person. Don’t get me wrong. I like to go out [to a nightclub or lounges] every now and then. But if
I want that, Alameda is close enough that I can go to the city. I’m about to be 28, so all that stuff is about to come to an end anyway. I’m getting kind of old to be out like that.”
    The background is where Barnes prefers to dwell, because the foreground is too crowded. He’s found a place to live that caters to his desire for the shadows. Barnes is just as content, maybe even more so sometimes, noshing at Sushi King as he would be at a popular San Francisco nightclub. He’d much prefer to be around real people, true fans—like the throng of Alameda High students he signed autographs for and took pictures with at Hawaiian Drive Inn, restaurant of famed Warriors fan Paul Wong, in September—than he would celebrities and their groupies.
    Barnes has been in the background his entire career. Entering his fifth season in the NBA, he has already played for five teams. He had stints with the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers before landing with the Golden State last season.
    In his first three years in the league combined, Barnes started 23 games and averaged 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 15.1 minutes. With the Warriors, he started 23 games and averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 23.9 minutes.
    “He’s one of those guys who just showed that hard work pays off, persistence,” Warriors forward Al Harrington says. “There were plenty of times Matt could have quit. But he realized this is what he wanted to do. This is his love, and this is his passion.”
    Simply put, Barnes found the ideal situation. First off, he loves being able to play on the West Coast. Being a Sacramento native and UCLA grad, he fashions himself as an unofficial ambassador for California. He has a new tat of the state on his right forearm, filled with a picture of the Capitol building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ logo and a beach to represent San Diego.
    What’s more, his game was seemingly made for coach Don Nelson’s fast-paced style of play, which thrives on versatile players. The system is catered to his strengths, and he has freedom on the court he’s never had before.
    On top of that, he’s found a city that suits him perfectly. So you can imagine why Barnes has never felt more at home.
    He currently rents a townhouse in a gated community. When he signed with the Warriors around this time last year, he asked around about where he should live, his criteria being “somewhere quiet and nice.” The common response was Alameda, which has long since been the undercover spot for athletes looking to escape it all. Warriors guard Monta Ellis and several Oakland Raiders also live in Alameda.
    Barnes’ real estate agent found the “cool li’l spot” he lives in now, which is just a few turns off Robert Davey Jr. Drive. He’s been scouring the Harbor Bay area for a bigger house to purchase—anything on the water.     
    “There has to be something for sale,” he says, peering through his windshield while driving around just off Island Drive.
    There is one thing Alameda and Barnes don’t have in common. Alameda is expensive. Barnes, per NBA standards, is a relative bargain.
    He’s making $3 million this season after signing a one-year contract with the Warriors in August. He has incentives that can push his earnings up to $3.5 million, which is much larger than last season’s earnings of just under $800,000 but considerably less than what some other equivalent players at his position are making.
    For comparison sake, sharp-shooting small forward Jason Kapono, also a former Bruin, signed a four-year, $24 million contract with Toronto. Small forward Andres Nocioni, known for his versatility and toughness, re-signed with the Chicago Bulls for $38 million over five years. Barnes would’ve loved to fall somewhere in between those two salaries.
    He went into the offseason excited about locking up his first long-term contract. He came out of nowhere last season to become one of the Warriors’ best players. After being invited to participate in the Golden State’s training camp, he earned a spot on the team, and later worked his way into the rotation.
    By the end of the season, he was a starter and played a huge role in Golden State’s upset of Dallas in the playoffs.
“I didn’t know he was going to be anything more than my 12th guy,” Nelson said during the playoffs. “But then he just settled down and started to do what I told him to do and take less chances. … What I did know was that the best team was when he was on the floor. And what I did know was, we were a huge plus when I played a lineup with him in it.”
    Barnes was sure his performance in the playoffs—he averaged 11.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists while playing with a broken right hand—was going to garner some heavy offers in the offseason. But agent issues and poor luck resulted in his settling for a one-year deal with the Warriors.
    He’ll be a free agent this offseason and, once again, looking to land a sizeable deal. He says if he had his druthers, he would sign a long-term contract with the Warriors, even if it means giving the Warriors a reasonable discount. If and when he gets a lucrative deal from the Warriors, Barnes says he wants to make Alameda his permanent residence.
    He could live in San Francisco, like many local pro athletes, maybe somewhere near Warriors point guard Baron Davis, a fellow Bruin and one of Barnes’ best friends. He could find a spot in Oakland near Lake Merritt, perhaps near Golden State forward Stephen Jackson, another of Barnes’ good friends. He could also live in his hometown, close to his family and friends, which is feasible despite being a solid commute to Oracle Arena and the Warriors practice facility in downtown Oakland.
    But there’s something about kids playing at the park, clean air and a slower pace.
    “I’m used to grass, front yards and backyards,” says Barnes, who grew up about 20 minutes outside of Sacramento in Fair Oaks. “I want to live in some place relaxing, not stressful. I don’t want to be fighting traffic and cramming for parking and all that.
    “I love it here. Absolutely. Every time my family comes out here, they love it.”
    With his focus needing to be at an all-time high, Barnes says he really appreciates the Alameda way of life, because now, more than ever, he needs serenity.
    Despite the fact he has carved a spot in the organization (fans love him because of his frenetic style of play and blue-collar mentality; Nelson loves him because of his ability to do so many things on the court—shoot, rebound, defend, dribble and pass), Barnes needs to do more. Not just for the contract he wants, but for the Warriors to go further this season.
    “I’m trying to be the best possible player I can be,” he says. “I didn’t get the contract I wanted. Obviously, they didn’t see enough. So I’m trying to take the league by storm this year.”
    With such huge goals in mind, Barnes fully takes advantage of Alameda’s calm environment. Save for a weekend in Las Vegas and jaunts to Sacramento, Barnes spent much of this past summer hiding out in his house, resting and clearing his mind.
    For the most part, his fun involved taking some friends to the Chuck Corica Golf Complex, and bowling with his nephew at AMF Lanes. Many of Barnes’ days were, by design, uneventful and tranquil. They often started with him playing basketball at the Warriors facility, something he did every weekday from
9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Afterward, he’d spend two hours working on his shooting followed by a weightlifting session before heading home.
    Other than running some errands—getting his car washed on High Street, picking up dry cleaning from Red Hanger Kleaners, grabbing a bite from Café Enrico—Barnes made a habit of unwinding at his Harbor Bay sanctuary.
    His pad isn’t something you’d expect for a bachelor professional athlete. No leopard print or marble in sight. There’s just one car in the garage, albeit a sweet Mercedes, and self-idolizing memorabilia is noticeably absent.
    However, this cozy abode epitomizes Barnes. Simple, yet effective. Quiet, yet stimulating. Diminutive, yet comfortable.
    Just like Alameda.

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~ by visionaryvanguard on Wednesday, 2007 December 5.

3 Responses to “matt barnes: an article…”

  1. Seriously Mariss? Seriously! You are too much!!

  2. MmMmMmM just makes me love him EVEN MORE!

  3. matt you seam to be a wonderful person maybe one day i will get to meet you as for now keep god first and then your kids . you have all you need

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