Hlas: Iowa's in the middle of Harrison Barnes' whirlwind

Ames native switches NBA teams while holding camp here

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CEDAR RAPIDS — You’re fresh off as long an NBA season as you can have, you’re about to change teams and sign a contract for mind-boggling money, and you start practicing with the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team in less than two weeks.

Where did you relax today? A golf course? Las Vegas? An exclusive private resort in Fiji?

Harrison Barnes has chosen Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, where Tuesday he began the second of his three two-day basketball camps in Iowa this month. Today, as the Ames native gets ready to sign a 4-year, $94 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks, he will conclude his camp here for about 75 kids from 6 to 16.

“People are asking what I’m doing to relax and that type of stuff,” Barnes said during a hydration break at his camp Tuesday morning. “I’m in Iowa doing youth camps.

“It’s a great way to kind of put things in perspective.”

In a Cedar Rapids gymnasium. Talking to young basketball players about not overdribbling. Urging them to develop good practice habits.

Calling this a life-changing week for Barnes may be understating things. He was a Golden State Warrior until Monday. That’s when the Warriors signed free agent Kevin Durant and renounced their rights to Barnes, who had been a restricted free agent.

Barnes had already signed a maximum offer sheet with Dallas, which the Warriors would have matched had they not landed superstar Durant. So off he goes to the Mavericks as a very wealthy 24-year-old.

“I can’t even wrap my mind around it,” Barnes said. “It’s truly a blessing.”

How do you wrap your mind around the life this man has already led, especially the last two years? Last season, Barnes was a starter and instrumental player for the Golden State team that won the NBA championship. That’s more than most pro players ever get to say.

He passed on a 4-year, $64 million extension offer from the Warriors last off-season, knowing what kind of money would flow to free agents after the 2015-16 season ended and the league’s salary cap increased from $70 million to $94.1 million.

In the season that just ended, Barnes averaged a career-best 11.7 points for the team that had a league-record 73 wins. The Warriors were one minute from repeating as champion, but lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Finals after having held a 3-1 series lead.

Barnes shot just 35.2 percent from the field in the Finals and received a lot of criticism for his play. But Dallas had cap money to spend after failing to sign free agents Hassan Whiteside, Mike Conley and Nicolas Batum, so here comes Barnes to Big D.

“Dallas is where I wanted to be,” Barnes said. “After the Durant signing I knew I had to find a different team, and Dallas has a great culture, a championship coach (Rick Carlisle led the Mavs to the 2011 NBA title), a great owner, and a great team. I think it will be a great opportunity for me.”

Carlisle will get to know Barnes better when he guests at Barnes’ camp at Ames High Thursday and Friday.

Then there’s Rio. Barnes will soon be off to Brazil. He was added to Team USA just a couple days after his NBA season ended. He’ll be the youngest player on the team that includes Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, and former Warrior teammates Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

“In the summer I try to work out as much as I can to get better and add new things,” Barnes said. “Instead of adding pickup games, this year I get to play international basketball, going up against some of the best in the world.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Just to be able to represent the country and compete for a gold medal. Those are things you dream about, you watch on TV. To be in that situation is pretty cool.”

Instead of sitting on stacks of his money or looking for a Texas-sized mansion in Dallas-Fort Worth, Barnes is working with kids in warm Iowa gyms.

“If I can give them just a little bit of inspiration,” he said. “I want these kids, when they look at me, to say ‘I can make it to the NBA, too.’

“We don’t come from L.A. or New York, but I was in the same shoes and I made it, so they can, too.”

There’s making it, and then there’s doing what Barnes has done. Oh, it’s good to be 24 and skilled in basketball.

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