During his exit interview on May 11, Matt Barnes hinted that he’d be picking up the player option on his contract in order to return to the Lakers.
“I want to win, and I still think this is the best team in the NBA,” he said.
After attending Tuesday’s press conference to introduce new head coach Mike Brown, Barnes was a bit more explicit: “I’ll be a Laker next year.”
Watching the presser for his new coach alongside owner Dr. Jerry Buss and executive VP of player personnel Jim Buss in the front row, Barnes came away impressed with what Brown had to say.
“He’s an open-minded coach, which is good,” said Barnes. “We have a very veteran driven team, and I’m sure guys are going to have their opinions on this and that, and as long as he listens to them and decides what’s best for the team I think he’ll be great.”
Among Brown’s many points in a 40-minute give-and-take session with the media was that he’s coming into the job with a great deal of energy and motivation, thinks he’ll have a very hungry team coming off the loss to Dallas and hopes to have “15 angry men” in training camp.
“Angry” is one way to describe how Barnes has been feeling.
“I’m still sick,” he said. “I haven’t watched a second of basketball, no “SportsCenter” because I know basketball would be on there. I’m still hurt thinking about it: one, the way we exited; and two, not being able to help.”
Yet, Barnes felt a bit better on Tuesday.
“I was energized just coming to (Brown’s) press conference,” he said. “Even thought we’re a long way out, you just get that feeling back that it’s time to go to work. I have no question, no doubt that everyone will come to training camp ready to roll.”
“This Lakers team will have its own way of playing now. We just have to play as hard as we can for him.”
Barnes, who just returned to L.A. from vacation, moved on to discuss the knee he had surgically repaired in January, saying that it “doesn’t hurt” anymore, but still swells up. He doesn’t expect to be able to run or jump for about another month, and had been at the team’s practice facility that morning to get treatment from the Lakers training staff. Fortunately for Barnes, he expects to be back at full speed well before the summer even ends, allowing him to do the thing on the court he says he was unable to upon his initial return from the injury.