TUALATIN, Ore. — It’s been a good stretch for Will Barton. He’s been playing well, all in games that the Portland Trail Blazers have won.
After the most productive and winning stretch of his brief career, Barton took some time to chat on an off day.
After the Moda Center crowd was chanting his name, he said he likes to think of himself as “The People’s Champ.”
“Everybody that knows me knows I’m a people person,” said Barton, who walked in with a basketball to the Club Sport in Tualatin on Sunday afternoon. “I love to communicate. I just love talking to different people, picking people’s brains and seeing how different they are from me. But we’re the same at the same time.
“I had the odds against me like everybody else but I beat them,” he said. “I want to do it for everybody. Even the guys that had a shot and blew it, because you don’t know if those people had the right people by them.”
He loved to play and he rebounded well for his size, but Barton knew that his jumper had to get better after his rookie year.
“It was me and probably one of my homies, just getting up shots in the gym,” he said. “Just countless shots. Some days I’m having a good day and some days I’m getting on myself, cussing myself out because I’m not making shots.”
Barton has shot better from deep in a small sample this year, but his jumper is still a work in progress.
Barton says the repetition brings boredom, but it is also where the mental challenge begins.
“You got to challenge yourself and find something,” he said. “Can I make five in a row? Something that will make you mad. So if I miss one you’re like, ‘Dang.’ It’s getting competitive and you’re liking it because you got something to do.”
However, it has been his energy and his and more controlled play that’s earned him minutes.
“He’s still playing like Will, but he’s been playing in the context of the team,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “I felt like he had two out of three pretty good games and deserves to stay in the rotation.”
Barton unleashed a 360-dunk in the first half of a close game and often makes audacious no-look passes.
“The best players in the league make mistakes, even in the past. You go out there and play the way you play and things are going to happen. That’s why it’s a game,” he said.
The chemistry of this year’s Blazers squad has been one of its hallmarks.
After Barton’s 20-point, 11-rebound performance against Brooklyn, CJ McCollum, the player in most direct competition with him for minutes came to congratulate him.
“He’s Insta,” Barton said of McCollum. “I call him ‘Insta’ — ’cause he’s instant offense.”
“All of the coaches, especially coach Nate Tibbets and coach Dale Osbourne, are always telling use to support each other, root for each other and help each other out,” Barton said about young players supporting each other. “You never want to make them feel like they’re alone.”
He’s also trying to diversify his repertoire off the court.
His latest challenge — stemming from his love of music — is learning the guitar, which he says makes him more focused.
“It just looks so cool when people are playing, and I’m all about being cool,” he said. “It just looks cool to be able to play it. You know the way I dress? Can you imagine a guitar with that with my spiky shoes? I just like being different.”
If he stays in the rotation or not, Barton said: “I just leave that job to coach.”
Although, there is something he wants sorted out soon.
His Wikipedia page lists him as “William Denard Barton,” when he says his real name is actually William Norman Barton III.