NBA Experience: 9 years
Contract Status: Signed thru 2011-12
2010-11 Averages: 6.7ppg, 4.3rpg, .7spg, 47% FG, 31% 3PT, 77% FT
It was the story of two seasons for Matt Barnes’ first year in Los Angeles. There was the pre-injury Barnes that provided the energy and attitude off the bench the Lakers sought when they signed the career journeyman. Then there was the post-injury Barnes that fell into the same lull the rest of the bench did late in the season.
When Kobe Bryant threw a curveball at the hoops world by openly courting Barnes – a sworn enemy of Laker fans worldwide – it showed just how badly the Lake Show needed more depth. For the first two months of the season Barnes gave the Lakers a dangerous bench. Between Barnes and Shannon Brown alone the Lakers boasted of an athletic and versatile perimeter capable of scoring in bunches while locking down opposing players.
That didn’t last long. Barnes suffered a severe setback due to a knee injury while Brown’s production plummeted. Now the big question is have we seen the best of Barnes?
Matt Barnes gets a lot of credit for getting the most of his talents. Coming into the league as a second round pick means you have no guarantees. Barnes has made stops at seemingly every NBA city and came to Los Angeles in hopes of winning a ring. Time will tell if he sees his dream come true. In the immediate future the concern is just how much can the Lakers expect from Barnes.
Strengthening the bench has been among the most important duties Mitch Kupchak has had to deal with during his tenure. Now that Barnes has health concerns and is showing signs of NBA aging it might be time for Kupchak to get back to building the bench.
Barnes only played 19 minutes a night last season, well below his career average of 25. Given his injuries and limited PT, Matt’s production was pretty impressive. He had his bright moments including a perfect night in Minnesota but also had some forgettable performances specifically late in the season.
Like the rest of the roster Barnes has to wonder what kind of a role he’ll play under Mike Brown. Barnes was the lone Laker to attend Brown’s introductory press conference. Though he was there to officially inform the team he was going to pickup the option on his contract, Barnes might have been trying to get into the good graces with the new coach.
In order for Barnes to continue to find ways to contribute he’s got to be the guy that got under Kobe’s skin. The Lakers need the feisty and energetic Barnes that runs the floor and stretches defenses. His defensive ability is what will make Barnes valuable to Coach Brown. Above all else, if Barnes can give Kobe and Ron Artest a chance to rest by switching off on their defensive assignments throughout the season it will help late in the year when fresher legs tend to have the advantage.
If there is an advantage to a lengthened lockout it is that guys like Barnes will have extended time to get healthy. As of now that knee is still giving Barnes problems and he’s in the process of rehabbing. In order to get the best of Barnes he’s got to be healthy first and foremost. That was the lesson learned from his first year in Los Angeles so let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.