LA Clippers: Matt Barnes planned to return to L.A. this year

Dec 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes (22) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 109-106. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes (22) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 109-106. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

Due to mutual interest in a reunion between Matt Barnes and the LA Clippers this summer, Barnes was planning to return to L.A.

Matt Barnes almost returned to the LA Clippers in free agency this summer. From trading him with Spencer Hawes for Lance Stephenson in 2015 to ultimately bringing back as many players as possible this year, looking for a reunion with Barnes hardly seemed like an option. But that was the case, and we’ve heard it from Barnes himself that he was planning to come back this summer due to mutual interest.

The new member of the Sacramento Kings, who last spent three seasons with the Clippers from 2012 to 2012, made an appearance on J.J. Redick’s podcast for The Vertical to discuss his near return:

"“Yeah, you know, it was an interesting situation for me. You know me, you know me well enough on and off the court to know that my last season with you guys, when we beat the Spurs in the playoffs and lost at Houston, it was a bad year for me off the court, from the standpoint that I was going through a divorce. Even though I held it together on the court, off the court I was a little on edge. As far as just my moods being up and down. And Doc [Rivers] and I just happened to clash.”"

Barnes added that even though he and Doc would clash, he could respect the coach’s willingness to listen to anything and always try to deal with how a player honestly felt.

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After being traded to the Charlotte Hornets in the Lance Stephenson deal and being moved to the Memphis Grizzlies 10 days later, Barnes said that he called Doc during the 2015-16 season to smooth out the way things ended in L.A.

"“We had a good conversation. I apologized, he apologized, and pretty much buried the hatchet. And then we played you guys [in Memphis] and spoke again. So, at the beginning of free agency, Doc and I talk and he’s just like, ‘I know you can still help this team. There’s a spot here for you. Let’s make this happen.’ I’m ecstatic.”"

Barnes went on to say that the Clippers joined the Golden State Warriors (who he played with from 2006-08) as the closest team he’s been on, benefiting from a great family environment on and off the court. He was extremely excited at the thought of returning this summer, and organized to meet Doc on the Tuesday of the first week of free agency.

"“So, I’m just thinking, hey, you know, Memphis is obviously interested. The Clippers are very interested, and Golden State and Sacramento. Those are the four teams I was really thinking about.More from ClipperholicsGrade the trade: Clippers shockingly land Trae Young in wild proposal3 of the most overpaid players on the LA Clippers’ rosterTrading for this player covers the Clippers’ biggest weaknessHow will the LA Clippers fare in the in-season tournament?Why the LA Clippers should steer clear of recent gold medalist waiver“And Doc and I are supposed to go to dinner on the Tuesday, and on Monday I see that they’ve signed Wesley Johnson. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘ok, it’s gonna be a little tight at the small forward position, but I’m all for competition.’“I’m telling myself that, but after it kind of settled in I’m like, damn, I was fully thinking I’m coming back to the Clippers. I’m not coming back to the Clippers… I shoot Doc a text later that night saying, ‘I saw you signed Wesley, congratulations. Are we still on for dinner?’ And we talk and he says, ‘we can still do dinner, but we just ran out of money.'”"

The supposed decision to “make it happen” never actually happened. The LA Clippers signed Wesley Johnson for the mid-level exception to give him $5.62 million for 2016-17, while Barnes ended up signing in Sacramento on a two-year, $12.5 million deal, making a slightly higher $6.12 million in 2016-17.

Barnes said that he wouldn’t take the minimum, but he expressed that a similar sum to Johnson wouldn’t have been an issue, adding that perhaps the Clippers thought he wanted more than he actually did.

Understandably so, Barnes would have been frustrated that Johnson made the cut over him, especially after his conversation with Doc.

It’s still surprising to hear that the Clippers were thinking about bringing Barnes back when he was traded just one year earlier for another small forward. Barnes would bring his typical gritty nature and defense, but failed to maintain his improved three-point efficiency from his time in L.A. after moving to Memphis, shooting just 32.2 percent from deep and 38.1 percent with the Grizzlies last season.

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Now, all this is in the past. The LA Clippers’ small forward rotation will still be highlighted by the likes of Luc Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson. The only new addition is the 33-year-old Alan Anderson.