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Scottie Barnes Walks Away from Bench Early During Toronto’s Frustrating Loss

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The Toronto Raptors may have reached a low point in their season on Monday night when they suffered a 122-99 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs, who are one of the worst teams in the NBA this season. To make matters worse, star forward Scottie Barnes was seen leaving the team’s bench and heading into the locker room before the game was over. It was a moment of immaturity for Barnes, who is only 22 years old but is being looked at as the face of the franchise and an important building block in Toronto’s future.

It’s easy to see why Barnes was frustrated by the loss and wanted to get off the court and move past the defeat as soon as possible. Monday’s win was San Antonio’s 11th of the season. Only two teams have fewer wins than the Spurs this season. Before the game, sportsbooks like BetRivers Canada listed the Raptors as clear favorites to win the game. Yet, things got away from Toronto early with the Raptors ultimately suffering a humiliating 23-point defeat.

Barnes, in particular, had one of his worst games of the season. He made just three of his 15 field goal attempts, scoring just seven points. While his nine rebounds and nine assists were a silver lining for Barnes, his shooting struggles and the lopsided loss to a bad team clearly had him perturbed. The loss also came on the heels of the NBA trade deadline. Prior to the deadline, the Raptors traded players like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, moves that will likely make it more difficult for the Raptors to compete for a playoff spot in the immediate future. 

The combination of Toronto’s trades and the brutal loss to the Spurs may have gotten the better of Barnes. Nevertheless, there’s no excuse for a player leaving the floor before the end of the game. It puts the Raptors in a tough position with regard to how they will handle such an unprofessional action from a star player who is supposed to be the future of the franchise.

“It is definitely a learning opportunity for all the players on the team,” Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic said after the loss when asked about Barnes. “From the young guys to older vets, this is not the performance we want to have. This is not the competitive spirit we want to have. We need to look in the mirror and figure out what we need to do.”

The situation with Barnes shouldn’t necessarily be considered closed following Rajakovic’s comments. The Raptors may need to punish Barnes for his early exit and make an example out of their star player. Otherwise, Rajakovic’s words could easily fall on deaf ears, wasting a learning opportunity for Barnes to grow.

The Raptors dealt with a similar situation during the 2020-21 season, albeit with a different head coach at the time. In that instance, Siakam walked into the locker room after fouling out of a game rather than staying on the team bench. Siakam was subsequently benched for Toronto’s next game. The Raptors could take a similar approach with Barnes to help the youngster understand his mistake and prevent a similar situation in the future from Barnes or any other player.

Naturally, the timing of this incident couldn’t be any worse. Barnes was recently named to the All-Star Team for the first time, doing so in just his third year in the NBA. After averaging 15.3 points per game over his first two seasons in the league, Barnes has improved his scoring average to 19.9 points per game this season. Moreover, amidst a lot of the turnover on Toronto’s roster in recent weeks, Barnes has been one of the few constants for the Raptors this season. As a result, Barnes has become a leader for the Raptors, meaning his actions carry a lot of weight with other players.

The bottom line is that Barnes’ actions were unbecoming of a player the Raptors want to be the face of the franchise while they attempt to build a competitive team around him. He has every right to be frustrated, but he expressed that frustration in the wrong way. For such a young and promising player, the Raptors may need to show Barnes some tough love to help ensure that this is the last time Barnes allows his negative emotions to get the best of him.

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