A solid start to the season by summer acquisition Matt Barnes was stalled in January when he tore meniscus in his right knee, which kept him out of 29 games and made it more difficult to find a late-season rhythm.
Barnes averaged 6.7 points on 47 percent field goals, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 19.2 minutes in his 53 regular season games, and in 13.1 postseason minutes per game averaged 3.6 points, 2.8 boards and 0.7 steals on 39.5 percent field goals.
- Barnes opened by talking about the disappointment of the season: “It’s a tough way to go out. For a team to win consecutive championships and it being Phil’s last year, a lot of things were at stake, and to be swept out of the playoffs was hard to swallow.”
- On hurting his knee in January having a hugely negative impact on his season: “That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. To finally have an opportunity to play for a championship organization with a legitimate chance to win a championship, and the season starting off so well, to tear my knee up and never really get back into the flow of the game… Once I returned, I just never really was comfortable, never really got back in the rotation, so to speak, so I’m still beating myself up about that. It was just really, really hard to swallow to know I had a chance but I was hurt.” Barnes said every part of his game was affected, because his game is about energy, and he wasn’t able to get up and down the floor effectively. He prides himself on running lanes, offensive rebounding, knocking down jumpers, and wasn’t really able to do so.
- The most difficult part of learning L.A.’s system for Barnes wasn’t so much the triangle offense, but learning all the counters that the players like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom instinctively do after years in the system. More time with the offense and those players would breed improvement, of course, as nothing can replicate time spent on the actual floor.
- Barnes made the point that you can’t really look at L.A.’s bench and compare it scoring wise to a Dallas bench that simply gets more minutes and is supposed to score (Jason Terry almost plays more minutes himself than Blake and Barnes together). The intention of their unit, with such skilled bigs and Kobe Bryant on the floor, is to change the rhythm and tempo of the game, and create things on the defensive end. The Mavs bench is a strict scoring bench, Barnes said, which “we saw in Game 4.”
- Barnes, who has a player option on his contract with L.A., said that he and his agent know what they’re going to do, though he said they’d keep to themselves. He did say this: “I want to win, and I still think this is the best team in the NBA.”
- Barnes was asked what it’s like not to live up to the championship expectations of the team and the city: “When you bust, it’s trouble. But it’s great to be in an organization where nothing but winning is accepted, that’s a great standard to live by on and off the court. To be here and to bust, you see the repercussions.” Barnes, who said he’s still mad, hurt and shocked, said he’s heard reports about breaking the team up, that they’re old, and the new guys need to get out and so on … but he said he realizes that goes with the territory when expectations are deservedly high.
- On next year, with his health back: “I know I’m going to bounce back strong. I just look at this as a missed opportunity, not that I would have made the difference, but I know would have helped.”
On what he saw from Kobe Bryant this season: “Just what makes him him, what makes him the best player in the game. His attention to detail, his hunger, his will to win. You can kind of see it as an opponent, but as a teammate, it’s second to none. I’ve played with a lot of great players, but he’s the one.”
- Finally, Barnes said he joked with Phil that he’s “like the (beer commercial) of the “Most Interesting Man in the World.’ His approach to things, the meditation, the trust he has in his players, the buttons he knows how to push to get the best out of each guy. And with a team like this with Hall of Famers, superstars, all-stars, there’s a lot of different egos and personalities, and I think he did a great job of juggling those and keeping us all on the same page.”