Raptors star Scottie Barnes sings O'Canada, finds his joy again at NBA All-Star weekend

Barnes has looked frustrated at times as losses pile up in Toronto, but appeared to enjoy every second in Indianapolis

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Scottie Barnes has had up-close looks at the NBA’s All-Star spectacle before, but this year was different.

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Whereas the Toronto Raptors forward had been in the Rising Stars game in his rookie and sophomore years and was a skills challenge participant in 2022, before doing it again this year, being in the actual main event is not the same.

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The hope is Barnes’s time around the NBA’s premier players will spark something in him, a desire to get as close to their level as possible and make All-Star selections a regular occurrence.

“I feel like I always have that inspiration, that motivation to try to come back as an All-Star,” Barnes told reporters in Indianapolis. “It’s one of my goals, and I’m going to keep fighting every year for it.”

Hopefully it also gets him back to enjoying himself a bit more, as the boundless joy he showcased on his way to winning rookie of the year has not been as apparent in the ensuing two seasons, even though he’s averaging career bests across the board in 2023-24.

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Barnes certainly appeared to be enjoying himself on Sunday. Even before his East team blew out the West 211-186, he was shown singing along to ‘O Canada’ pre-game. Barnes had told us as a rookie it took him about 10-15 games as a Raptor to learn the words to the Canadian national anthem.

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Barnes represented his team and adopted country well, scoring 16 points, along with 8 rebounds in 18 minutes. The fun continued post-game when Barnes mock threatened to dump Gatorade on game MVP Damian Lillard as Lillard was posing for pictures with his trophy.

Barnes was asked about the huge grin he broke out when he heard his name announced as a first-time All-Star. “I’m always happy, I’m goofy,” Barnes told TSN’s Kayla Gray. “They call my name, I can’t help but smile, even if I try to hide it, it just comes out,” Barnes said.

His friend and skills challenge teammate Tyrese Maxey laughed off some moments when things didn’t go his or Barnes’s way.

“We tried our hardest. Me and Scottie did have some mishaps. He dribbled the ball off his foot. I don’t know what was going on with that, but that’s OK,” Maxey told reporters. They, along with Trae Young, did manage to win the shooting portion of the event and could have won the passing segment (they lost in a tie to the Team Indiana but Barnes was great in that leg, earning praise on the broadcast).

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All in all, it was a weekend to remember for Barnes and potentially a springboard to more.

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“I enjoyed it. I went out there and did what I do: Rebound, push the pace and play hard on defence,” Barnes told Sportsnet Central after the All-Star Game.

GOOD COMPANY

At 22 years, 201 days, Barnes is in some pretty good company in terms of up-and-comers making their first All-Star Game. Anthony Edwards (22 years, 197 days), Ja Morant (22, 194), Brandon Ingram (22, 167), Kevin Durant (22, 144), Bam Adebayo (22, 213), Anthony Davis (22, 340), Paul George (22, 291) were all in the same ballpark. The late Kobe Bryant holds the record, going from high school to the NBA All-Star Game by the time he was 19 years and 169 days old. LeBron James, who just played in his 20th game (only two older players have made it), sits second at 20 years and 52 days. Only Chris Bosh made it sooner than Barnes amongst Raptors.

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AROUND THE RIM

A player scored 50 points for the third year in a row (Jayson Tatum set the All-Star Game record of 55 in 2023). Before this run, 50 or more had only been done once, by Anthony Davis in 2017. Fellow former Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns got to 50 in the fewest minutes, though, playing only 28 on Sunday. Surprisingly, Vince Carter never topped the 16 points Barnes scored. Carter’s high was also 16. Chris Bosh has the Raptors record of 23 points, DeMar DeRozan scored 21 in 2018, Kawhi Leonard scored 19 in 2019, Kyle Lowry 19 in 2017, Pascal Siakam’s best was 15 … Montreal’s Bennedict Mathurin, of the Indiana Pacers, won MVP of the rising stars game, while All-Star starter Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, of Hamilton, was second on the West to Towns, scoring 31 points.

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