Luke DeCock

Barnes savors Olympic experience, however minimal — DeCock

United States men’s basketball team members, from left: Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Kyle Lowry and Harrison Barnes pose for a picture before accepting their gold medals on Sunday at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
United States men’s basketball team members, from left: Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Kyle Lowry and Harrison Barnes pose for a picture before accepting their gold medals on Sunday at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. deulitt@kcstar.com

As Harrison Barnes and Mike Krzyzewski exited the court Sunday, Kryzezewski pulled Barnes close. In that moment, they exchanged thanks.

“I told him, 'Thanks so much for the opportunity,' and he told me, 'Thanks for the way you conducted yourself,'” Barnes said.

That's a bigger deal than it may sound, considering Barnes was basically a spare part for the United States in Rio. Still, he had a gold medal around his neck afterward, same as the other 11 players who appeared in Sunday's 96-66 win over Serbia.

As the United States' 12th man on a 12-man roster, he only played in four of eight games and didn't see action in the gold-medal blowout over Serbia until there were less than six minutes left but he still became the 10th North Carolina player to win gold at the Olympics.

“Man, it was just a dream come true,” Barnes said. “To be able to watch this, to be able to feel the weight, literally, of this gold medal, it just motivates you for the season. The weight of the moment really kind of hits you. When you're playing these games it's kind of hard to feel what that's like. When you hear the national anthem and you get this medal, it really just speaks to this team, the sacrifice and all the work we put in.”

Barnes now moves on to a new phase of his career, leaving the Golden State Warriors as a free agent to join the Dallas Mavericks, from role player on a championship team to would-be star on a different one. The Olympics, he hopes, can jumpstart that process.

“This was a great opportunity one, to be an Olympian, to be around all these great athletes, but two, to win gold, to represent our country and continue the gold-standard legacy,” Barnes said.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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