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Barnes on leaving bench early in loss: 'It was a bad look'


TORONTO — As the clock wound down on a demoralizing loss to the lowly San Antonio Spurs, Scottie Barnes left the Toronto Raptors' bench and headed to the locker room.

Barnes's frustration was obvious after rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama had a triple-double to power San Antonio past Toronto 122-99 on Monday night. But leaving the courtside area with a few seconds left to play is considered poor form in basketball, especially for a player considered the future of the Raptors franchise and part of the team's leadership core.

"It was a bad look," said Barnes at practice the next day. "It was a mistake on my part.

"If it affected them in any way, it's a mistake by me."

Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high 10 blocks in the Spurs victory. He also had five assists, putting him within range of an exceptionally rare quadruple-double.

Barnes has become the face of the Raptors franchise after all-star forward Pascal Siakam was traded to the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 17. He's also become Toronto's No. 1 scoring option, but he only had seven points in the loss to San Antonio, who has allowed the third most points per game in the NBA this season.

The six-foot-seven Barnes is trying to develop into a playmaker, and had nine assists against the Spurs but also led the Raptors with five turnovers. He acknowledged that his body language on the court can be bad when he's not playing well and it can lead to him being distracted.

“I think it's more when I'm frustrated or emotional, it's more on my part," said Barnes, noting he had most of his turnovers in the first quarter. "I'm just frustrated, mad at myself. Just gotta take care of the ball.

"It led to easy fast-break points. Showing emotion, not getting back, it cost us. It's more me being frustrated with myself and the way I'm playing. It's not really anything to do with anybody else. I'm just more frustrated on my part."

The 22-year-old Barnes is averaging 19.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 5.9 assists this season and will be making his first all-star game appearance this weekend. Barnes had a meeting with Raptors coaching staff on Tuesday morning.

"I am hard on them in our team setup, I’m hard on them when we talk one-on-one," said head coach Darko Rajakovic. "I’m always challenging them and facing them with the truth (...) I’m always going to protect my guys and I want to go into war with my guys, I want to have their backs in the public eye.

"But at the same time, whatever needs to be said in a private setting, a team setting, they hear it all."

The Raptors finished with 39.8 per cent on their field goals, including 25.8 from three-point range in the loss to San Antonio. The Spurs shot 52.9 per cent on its field-goal attempts, including 36.7 per cent on its threes.

Rajakovic said that his roster — overhauled by four major trades through December and January — is still getting to know each other, learning their new roles, and how to speak with each other.

"The whole point on my film and talk with the players in practice today is what can we control what can we do differently in these situations? How do we you make it better for us?" said Rajakovic. "I always like to have a positive mentality and to bounce back while at the same time addressing the issues and trying to go — to grow — through the process."

RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., one of the central pieces Toronto picked up ahead of the deadline was excused from practice on Tuesday for personal reasons.

The Raptors host the Pacers on Wednesday night, with a video tribute to Siakam scheduled before the national anthems.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2024.