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Harrison Barnes steps up as Warriors starter

OAKLAND — The general consensus is Harrison Barnes had a great rookie season and, some how, spiraled downward into a sophomore slump.

From major metro news outlets, to the smallest of fan-operated websites, Barnes’ name has been used alongside words like ‘bust,’ ‘one-and-done,’ and ‘failure.’

When Barnes’ name is mentioned there is a simple thought that most would agree with: He was so good his rookie year, but when they brought in Andre Iguodala, and Barnes went to the bench, he struggled until he lost his game and his confidence.

But the numbers just don’t add up. Where is the evidence?

The truth is, there isn’t much evidence. And in some instances, Barnes was actually better in his second season.

Lets start with turnovers. A dreaded word that has plagued the Warriors and continues to do so. In his rookie season, Barnes committed 101 turnovers (not bad compared to the 200-plus from teammate Stephen Curry). The next year Barnes cut that number to 84, despite playing more minutes.

Barnes also totaled more and averaged more blocks, steals, assists, and offensive rebounds per game in his sophomore season than he did in his first.

Barnes says he tries to focus on the bigger picture and told SFBay the noise from the media doesn’t affect him:

“I don’t really put too much stock in it. Yeah, it may not have been the best individual performance but I was still part of a team that won 51 games and went to the playoffs, and that’s more than most people can say.”

But not everything is as easily found as numbers on a stat sheet.

What about the times last season that Barnes knocked down crucial shots with the second unit to help the Warriors maintain a lead? Or when he made a play that sparked a run, or hit the go-ahead shot?

In at least 15 Warriors wins in 2014 (not including wire-to-wire wins or blowouts) Barnes was essential and often a driving force for the Warriors offense.

Barnes said he knows it’s the big shots that matter most:

“If a guy is averaging two points a game, comes in a hits a big shot, that’s all that matters at the end of the day. But if you’re averaging 25 and ultimately in the fourth quarter you don’t do anything then it doesn’t matter what you’ve done before.”

One gripe often heard about Barnes’ second year is that his shooting percentage fell. It’s true, his field goal percentage went from 43.9 percent per game to 39.9.

But even though he came off the bench for a large part of the 2013-14 season, he played more minutes, took more shots and only scored 10 fewer points on the whole season than in 2012-13.

Shooting percentage is not always what it seems. Tuesday night the San Antonio Spurs shot 49.5 percent to the Warriors 54.3 and the Spurs won.

The Spurs took more shots and capitalized on mistakes. Barnes is taking more shots and making fewer mistakes. Any arguments over Barnes’ consistency Barnes needs only to recall he is merely 22 and fresh into his third season.

In that same Spurs game, Barnes had his best scoring night of the season and has been in double digits five of the Warriors eight games, with coach Steve Kerr encouraging him to be more aggressive offensively. Barnes scored 12 points Thursday against Brooklyn, making four of 10 shots in 32 starting minutes.

Barnes told SFBay he recalls a lesson he learned playing college ball, when he thinks about the response people have had to his second year:

“One thing I learned when I went to North Carolina is that there is always going to be judgment about how you play. At the end of the day I go out there and do the best that I can and so that’s the same mentality I’ll have going into this year and hopefully we’ll push past 51 wins.”

Through the Warriors first eight games this year Barnes is averaging 10.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game with a field goal percentage of 52.7, his best numbers to date.

Follow @SFBay and @NBASarah on Twitter and at for full coverage of the Golden State Warriors.

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