OKLAHOMA CITY -- Warriors coach Mark Jackson was floored. Out of nowhere last week, rookie forward Harrison Barnes expressed appreciation for the confidence Jackson has shown in him.
"He thanked me for running plays for him," Jackson said. "But he gets it. He appreciates it because he earned it. He doesn't take it for granted."
Barnes seems to have developed a comfort level on the court. No longer the hesitant rookie, he is attacking with confidence and producing numbers that figure to put him in the Rookie of the Year conversation.
Over his last two games, Barnes has scored 37 points on 14-of-26 shooting. He's also grabbed 22 rebounds, including five offensive.
Barnes newfound effectiveness is the payoff of his budding relationship with Jackson, who has been grooming the former North Carolina star since the Warriors drafted him No. 7 overall.
"I think coach has done a good job of teaching us in practice," Barnes said, "putting me in good positions to be successful, giving me different touches. Early on, it was an adjustment."
Though Barnes' talent has been obvious from the beginning, Jackson made him earn his keep. He wasn't announced as a starter until just before the season opener.
Even when the season started, Barnes still had a ladder to climb. He played 14 minutes the first game, no more than 23 the two games after that. What's more, he was the fourth or fifth option on offense.
It was unfamiliar territory for the former McDonald's High School All-American. On top of that, Jackson would praise the talents of others, intentionally prodding Barnes' competitive spirit.
"He's a very confident guy, which is great," Jackson said. "I give props to other (rookies), needle him a little bit. That will ensure him a trip to the gym later and attack mode when we face that person. ... Absolutely, I play mind games with him. And he's a smart guy, so it's not your typical mind games."
In addition to keeping Barnes hungry, Jackson has been training him to take advantage of his strengths. At 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, he posses a combination of size and athleticism the Warriors don't otherwise have.
The Warriors have started running plays for Barnes that get him closer to the basket. They post him up. They curl him off screens to get him to the free-throw line area. Jackson said he envisioned Barnes having a Paul Pierce-esque game. Like Pierce, Barnes has the size, ballhandling, slashing skills and midrange jumper to be a problem from 18 feet and in.
Early on, Jackson said, Barnes would catch the ball on the perimeter and -- fueled by his unshakable confidence -- do whatever came to mind. Sometimes he'd take a 3-pointer, sometimes it was dribble in traffic. But Jackson has been constantly in his ear about efficiency, manipulating his strengths and creating matchup problems. Not settling.
"Offensively, he's figuring things out more and more," Jackson said. "And he's being aggressive. He learned how to be effective."
Certainly, this season has been an exercise in patience for Barnes. He said he sees the numbers being put up by the players drafted ahead of him, such as Dion Waiters, Damian Lillard and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
But what Jackson said he loves about Barnes is his high standards.
"We've had great dialogue," Jackson said. "He isn't worried about proving people wrong. He wants to be great. He's committed to this thing. He's been a gem for us."