Bang. (Getty Images)
If you're anything like me, you're having a little bit of trouble shaking loose the cobwebs following a four-day holiday weekend full of eating, driving back and forth between family members' couches, sleeping on foldout couches (complete with metal bars jutting up into your lower back) or lumpy hotel beds, and generally not treating your body very well. It's hard to get yourself to wake up and snap back to reality; this is normal.
Luckily, we've got the antidote. On Saturday night, while the eyes of most of the sports-watching world were trained on Notre Dame-USC, Golden State Warriors rookie Harrison Barnes was busy brewing up the double-shot of espresso that he knew our morning coffee would need. Step right up, Nikola Pekovic:
Well, then. Good morning.
After you've wiped the coffee off your monitor, feel free to run this one back and watch it again, because — with apologies to Kevin Durant-on-Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Jones-on-Jodie Meeks — I feel pretty comfortable saying this is the best dunk we've seen in the young 2012-13 NBA season thus far. (If you think another stands out, though, we'd of course love to hear your take in the comments.)
NOTE: My apologies to Jeff Green for forgetting about his big-time bang on Al Jefferson two weeks ago. A strong argument, for sure, can be made for that.
Asked where his mammoth second-quarter jam on the Minnesota Timberwolves center — an imposing sort given his sheer brute strength, but a largely earthbound dude who's not much of a shot-blocker (he's sent away just 2.2 percent of opponents' 2-point field-goal attempts over the course of his three-year NBA career) — ranked among the dunks he's ever pulled off, Barnes called it the "top, by far."
"It probably would have been a little bit better if it would have been and-one," he said, according to Michael Wagaman of The Associated Press. "I just wanted to finish strong."
Well, mission accomplished, rook.
While the full-fledged posterization of a near All-Star-level big man deservedly drew oohs and aahs, it was his work on the boards — 11 rebounds, all on the defensive glass, for the freshman's third double-double of the season — that elicited praise from head coach Mark Jackson after the Warriors' 96-85 win over the sliding Wolves.
Barnes ranks second in defensive rebound rate among rookie swingmen behind only Charlotte Bobcats wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and he's grabbing a higher share of available opponents' misses than stars like Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng and Rudy Gay, which has been a big boost to a Warriors team without expected low-post linchpin Andrew Bogut and injured wing Brandon Rush, a very good defensive rebounder for his position. Golden State ranks third in the league in defensive rebounding percentage and fourth in overall rebounding rate, according to NBA.com's stat tool, and while the lion's share of the credit for those marks goes to longtime glass-eater David Lee, the youth-crew contributions from Barnes and surprising second-round pick Draymond Green (who's grabbing better than one-fifth of opponents' misses in his 11.4 minutes per game) have certainly helped.
That said, while Barnes' willingness to bang with the likes of Pekovic and Kevin Love under the backboard might send coaches' hearts fluttering, it's the dunk itself — and, more to the point, the possibilities it represents (as CBSSports.com's Royce Young wrote, "I did not know Harrison Barnes had that in him") — that will get fans' attention and announce his presence to the world.
To this point, most NBA fans know Harrison Barnes only as a highly touted college star who never quite lived up to his recruiting hype at UNC, an apparently postmodern businessman focused largely on how his play and on-court success might affect his branding and promotional opportunities or a nice athlete who seems to dig midrange jumpers more than slashing to the rim. Now, we know he can also do that and, more importantly, do that in an explosive, violent, dominant way that can shift momentum and make a tangible difference in an actual game situation. Harrison Barnes isn't just a theoretical collection of physical gifts anymore; Harrison Barnes is someone who'll put one of the NBA's baddest dudes on a poster.
That distinction matters, even if Jackson immediately (and understandably) punctured the rookie's balloon a bit by noting that it's not the best sonning he'd ever seen up close. More from the AP:
''Well, it's behind Tom Chambers' (dunk) over me,'' Jackson said. ''Harrison really showed his athletic ability and that's going to be one that he will remember for a long time to come."
He's not the only one.
If the video clip above isn't rocking for you, feel free to peruse the ownage elsewhere, thanks to firstandskol.