Raptors’ Scottie Barnes trying not to succumb to rookie wall by learning to shrug off the wear and tear of long NBA season

Raptors’ Scottie Barnes trying not to succumb to rookie wall by learning to shrug off the wear and tear of long NBA season

It is how Scottie Barnes navigates the tough times that will be the true measure of his rookie NBA season because there can be no doubt that tough times will arise.

There will be games when he has a minimal impact on the outcome, games where his body and mind are worn out, periods where he struggles.

And Fred VanVleet hit on a phrase this week that perfectly sums up what the young Raptors prodigy needs to keep in mind.

“I think you should chase greatness,” the VanVleet said.

That means not giving in, not accepting the common wisdom that NBA rookies succumb to “the wall” at some point in the season, it’s having the mental toughness to shrug it off.

“You shouldn’t fall into the trap and the lulls of what it means to be a rookie,” VanVleet said. “With his size and his skill set, if he just plays hard he’ll be okay. I think he had a couple nights where he just didn’t quite have it. That’s okay. We’ve all been there.”

Barnes was there during the Raptors road trip that winds up Friday night in Indiana. For a couple of the first five games, Barnes was ordinary or a step below that, a split second slower than he had been, a beat behind the play, accepting being reactive rather than proactive.

He did turn it around, though. He was average in the first half against Golden State on Sunday but rebounded with a solid second half; his first few minutes Wednesday in Memphis were, at times, brutal, but he was fully engaged as the Raptors roared back in the second half to win going away.

In the first four games of this road trip, Barnes was shooting 34 per cent (15-of-44) and averaging 10 points a game. Against Memphis, he had 17 points on 57.1 per cent shooting (eight-of-14); Indiana on Friday night will be the final game of this trip.

“Finding your way around the league I don’t think you’re always going to be in a great state of mind and your body hurts sometimes and you’ve just try to be able to brush those off and get onto the next one,” coach Nick Nurse said before Wednesday’s game.

“I think he’d had a couple of tough ones in a row going but he found a spark, made some shots, started getting to the basket, those kind of things.”

Much, indeed is being asked of the 20-year-old already and the responsibility is only going to grow. He’s already played more minutes (597) in 17 NBA games than he did in his entire season at Florida State (595) and the level of competition is light years more difficult.

But fair or not, Barnes carries great responsibility with the Raptors .

Nurse wants him to shoot and shoot often (“I want him to be aggressive. I want him to take his opportunity more in the course of the offence,” the coach said. “I want him to shoot more from the perimeter while continuing to try to defend and rebound for us.”) while also sharing a variety of defensive assignments.

The six-foot-nine Barnes spent the end of Wednesday’s game guarding Memphis point guard Ja Morant because VanVleet was playing with five personal fouls. Morant, who had 23 points overall, had only four points in the final five minutes of the game.
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