Will Barton calls Wizards trade a “shock,” reveals proudest aspect of Nuggets tenure

Will Barton doesn’t think about what could’ve been in Denver anymore.

Now about six weeks removed from his trade to Washington, Barton doesn’t dwell on departing a contending team or leaving a starting unit featuring the back-to-back MVP.

“That time and that chapter is over with,” Barton told The Denver Post over Zoom. “I don’t think about what could’ve been, what happened. I’ll wait until my career is over with to answer questions like that.”

Even though he’s now with the Wizards — thanks to a trade that sent he and Monte Morris to Washington for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith — Barton can’t get away from his old teammates.

On Thursday, he was in Chicago coaching in the Under Armour Next Elite 24 basketball showcase with Nuggets point guard Bones Hyland. The two worked out together Thursday morning for more than an hour, then put their coaching hats on to help shepherd the next generation of basketball talent. It’s a showcase Barton participated in back when he was making a name for himself.

“Just trying to be someone the kids can ask questions, get advice,” Barton said. “I know they all dream of playing in the NBA. Just give them anything they need, really.”

Barton, a 10-year veteran, knows the business end of the NBA as well as what it takes to go from being a second-round pick to an NBA starter. Still, nothing prepares you for a career-altering trade.

“It was just like a shock, but not too much of a shock,” Barton said when asked his reaction to the trade. “It was a shock in that, obviously, I had been there eight years, did so much there together, so it’s always shocking when you’ve been somewhere for so long and you’re moving on. But, at the same time, I embraced it, I’m welcoming a new chapter.”

Of all the things the Nuggets accomplished during Barton’s tenure, including an ongoing streak of four consecutive playoff appearances, he said the thing he was most proud of was changing the perception of Denver’s franchise as a whole. When he got there during the 2014-15 season via trade from the Trail Blazers, the Nuggets were rudderless.

Some eight seasons later, they’re a healthy player or two away from a Finals contender.

“Just turning that whole thing around, that’s the biggest thing,” Barton said. “I came there, we were not good. We did not have a good culture. To see where it is now, and know that I played a heavy role in that, can’t be more rewarding. That’s the greatest achievement for me when I look back at it.”

Now with the Wizards, Barton already has familiarity. Former Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. is the head coach, and there’s comfort in Morris, who Barton shared a backcourt with last season. And with Bradley Beal, the Wizards aren’t empty on star power.

After a summer of traveling, a new documentary set to be released within the next month, and a few more weeks to “get (his) mind right for a new challenge,” Barton isn’t ambiguous about his goals this season. He wants to get the Wizards back to the playoffs and change the narrative about the struggling franchise.

“My head is to go in there and help do the same thing I helped do in Denver,” Barton said.

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