But the Golden
State years weren't without their controversies. In Barry's first two seasons
back the Warriors were split over the issue of whom the team belonged to, Barry
or high-scoring Forward Cazzie Russell. When Russell became a free agent and
departed for L.A. for the 1974-75 season, the Warriors made Barry captain, and
he responded with a stunning season. But it's unlikely that the Warriors would
have won the championship had Clifford Ray, then new to the team, not rallied
the players around Barry. "When I first got there, most of the guys didn't
even talk to Rick," Ray says. "They got on me for being his friend. I
called them in and told them, 'Rick is this team. He's a superstar. Now Rick
may not be the kind of guy to say please, but he's in it to win. Maybe he does
some things that bother you, but maybe you don't understand him, either. I'm
telling you, we got to blend in with him. This man is our ticket.' "
The next season
the Warriors won 59 games, tops in the league, but lost 94-86 to Phoenix in the
seventh game of the Western Conference playoff final at home. Barry's
performance in that game was uncharacteristic of so great a clutch performer.
Barry had 14 points in the first half, but only six after that, taking only six
shots in the second half.
It was suggested
that Barry was so disgusted by his teammates' play that he deliberately removed
himself from the offense, as if to say, "Go ahead, win it without me."
Barry now says, "Anybody who knows me knows that there's no way in the
world I'd intentionally do something that would jeopardize an opportunity to
win a ball game, especially when we had a chance to win a championship. There's
no way in the world I'd do that." He's angry now, banging his fist on the
table. "I didn't pout. I didn't try to prove a point. It means too much to
me to win."
three more years at Golden State. He wanted to finish his career there. In
fact, he thought he and Mieuli had agreed in December of 1977 to a two-year
extension of his Warriors contract. The extension gave Barry an option to buy
5% of the franchise when he retired, the same deal Attles has. But Barry
forwent that and settled for a pay raise. At the time Barry was making $325,000
a year. The extension would have raised his salary to $445,000. But before
Barry signed the contract Mieuli went away on a long cruise. By the time he got
back in February, and he and Barry and Scotty Stirling, then Golden State's
general manager, got together, the deal being offered was not the one Barry had
assented to. When an agreement couldn't be reached Barry shopped himself on the
open market. "It became obvious to me I wasn't wanted anymore," Barry
says. "It wasn't Franklin Mieuli. Al didn't want me there."
Of all the teams
Barry talked to, Houston showed the most interest in him. The Rockets had Moses
Malone, Rudy Tomjanovich, Robert Reid, Calvin Murphy and John Lucas. With Barry
they could think championship. Ray Patterson, the general manager, and Tom
Nissalke, then the coach, thought it unlikely that the compensation that would
be awarded the Warriors for Houston's signing of Barry would be either Malone
or Tomjanovich, and they concurred that anyone else would be worth the move.
They offered Barry $1 million for two seasons. Barry thought it would be
"It was the
worst move I ever made," he says now. "What a zoo."
The Houston media
put Barry on the hot seat before he ever put on the uniform, because the
compensation turned out to be $100,000 and Lucas, the second-best assist man in
the league. To justify signing Barry, the media argued, the Rockets had to win
the championship. Nissalke responded by relegating Barry to passing forward,
and he responded with 502 assists, the most ever for a true forward. But
Nissalke's offense cost Barry eight shots a game, and his scoring average fell
from 23.1 to 13.5. When the Rockets were swept by Atlanta in the first round of
the playoffs, Nissalke was gone. Barry was pleased that his replacement was
Assistant Coach Del Harris, who Barry thought would restore his role to its
former eminence. But under Harris, Barry averaged only 25 minutes and 12 points
a game. Barry thought Harris had betrayed him. By the time the Rockets were
swept by Boston in the second round of the 1980 playoffs, Barry's NBA stock had
dropped through the floor. He asked Patterson what kind of money the Rockets
would offer him to come back. Patterson said $150,000. Barry didn't know
whether to spit or go bowling.
Barry thought he
could still play, but no one else did. He got in touch with the Lakers, the
Sonics and the Knicks, but when they all passed, he retired. It bothers Barry
that his career ended on a sour note. He never got a farewell tour, as Havlicek
and West did. He never even got his jersey retired.
expect anything," Barry says. "Seriously, if I'd had a grand tour, how
would they have promoted it? Your last chance to boo Rick Barry?"
Would he have
liked a ceremony?