LOS ANGELES, September 1, 2014 — Matt Barnes has played for eight different NBA teams, including all four teams in California. The former UCLA Bruin is currently in his second stint with the Los Angeles Clippers. On September 7, Matt Barnes will team up with Snoop Dogg to host a celebrity flag football game to benefit the charity Barnes started, Athletes Versus Cancer. Recently, Matt Barnes spoke to Communities Digital News regarding the charity game, as well as new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and the upcoming Clippers season.
Kevin Wells: What do you think Steve Ballmer brings to the table as an owner that Donald Sterling did not?
Matt Barnes: More than anything, it’s a fresh breath of air. It’s just his excitement, his outlook. I don’t know if you saw the rally, but he just energized and got the crowd into it. To see that from an owner’s perspective, you really don’t get that too much. Mark Cuban is one that comes to mind, but not too many have that. I think his excitement for our team and what’s going on is gonna carry over and I think we’re gonna go out and play great for him.
KW: What is the attitude of the players about having the ownership issue settled and done?
MB: It’s just a relief, you know? You take one thing off our plate. Playing here in L.A. there are a lot of distractions and a lot of stuff going on already and that Sterling stuff during the playoffs was obviously at the worst time. You get to step back and appreciate that we get to go back and play basketball. I think some of us took it for granted because some people wanted us to stand up and be politicians and be this or be that and you need to do this. You need to strike. We just want to play basketball. There’s a time and a place for everything else, but we get to be basketball players again.
KW: Looking forward to this season, which team in the West do you see as the Clippers’ biggest hurdle in getting to the Finals?
MB: You gotta say San Antonio, the defending champs. Everyone continues to say they’re too old, but time and time again Pop gets those guys ready and preserves their legs during the season and during playoff time, they’re ready. So, you definitely gotta say San Antonio. Oklahoma City will be tough, obviously. Houston should be tough, Dallas. I think it’s gonna be an exciting West this year. I’m not sure, I’m missing a couple teams, but it’s gonna be a battle down to the end. Think it’s us, Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
KW: You’ve been fortunate to have played for some legendary coaches. Which coach has helped your game the most?
MB: I think Don Nelson. He just allowed me to play. He allowed me to find out what I need to do to last in this league. He was the first coach that had confidence in me to go out there and to play and that’s what I did. I would definitely say he is the one that kind of opened the doors, but then after that I would say Phil Jackson and obviously Doc Rivers. I feel those two have an aura about them and a presence about them. You know, when they in the room, it just feels different.
KW: You have a celebrity flag football tournament coming up with Snoop Dogg. How did you guys get hooked up for this event?
MB: We’ve been friends for a while and we’ve always kind of wanted to team up and do something. He’s still very active and athletic and wanted to do something. I used to have a golf tournament, but he doesn’t really golf and he’s really big in the youth football league. Football was my first sport growing up and I played it through high school. We came up with the flag football game last year and we’re going into our second year now and we’re excited. It keeps growing and we’re raising more money for a great cause.
KW: The game benefits a charity Athletes Versus Cancer, which you started after your mother passed away from cancer. What type of work does Athletes Versus Cancer do for those affected by cancer?
MB: We’re actually in the middle of changing our target and what we’re doing. Before we would go into the inner cities and provide mobile screening units to screen people for certain types of cancer. That was good. We got big turn outs, but I wanted to more stuff with teenagers and younger kids too. Having kids of my own and seeing what kind of stuff they go through, I’m changing now. I teamed up with UCLA Cancer Center. I’m in talks with them about doing a fellowship program for children who have beat cancer. Usually, if insurance doesn’t cover it, all those treatments can clean you out financially. So, we want to provide some sort of scholarship program for those who beat cancer so they can go to college.
KW: Was it tough to recruit athletes and celebrities to come out and play in a flag football game?
MB: I don’t think it’s tough so much that it’s football, but it’s tough that it’s their schedules. In the summertime, especially for athletes, we’re on the move and for entertainers it’s usually their tour time. It’s just nailing people down when they are around to be able to do something. We’ve had some success getting some big name people and we’re gonna have a good time.
KW: For a Bruin, you seem to have quite a few former Trojans playing in the game.
MB: Yeah, that’s funny. I’ve never really been that guy. I mean, honestly, when I was in college as a freshman, our football team wasn’t very good. So, I used to watch Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, you know, all those guys. So, I became a fan of them. It’s not really a big deal to me.
KW: For those unable to attend the game, where can people go to find out more about your Athletes Versus Cancer and to donate?
MB: www.athletesversuscancer.org is the website.
The game will be held at Granada Hills Charter High School on September 7 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase at http://www.athletesversuscancer.org, with VIP packages available. Joining Snoop and Barnes on the field will be Gloria Govan-Barnes, Nick Young, Rodney Peete, Nate Robinson, DJ Quik, DJ Mayo, Marcellus Wiley, Mike Epps, Ray J, Antoine Walker, Corey Maggette, Omar Gooding, Jackie Long, Red Grant, Brandi Garcia, and more.
Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music and food. Kevin plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball