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Matt Barnes: 2012 Exit Interview

Matt Barnes started 16 games and appeared in 63 towards averages of 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists on 45.2 percent shooting (33.3 percent from three) in the regular season.

Barnes had an excellent rhythm going after the All-Star break, but rolled his ankle in the second-to-last regular season games and was unable to garner consistent playing time upon returning in the playoffs, averaging only 16.8 per game towards 3.5 points and 3.3 boards.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- The main frustration for Barnes, not just this season but last, was having injuries derail strong rhythm he’d found heading into the postseason. Barnes not only had an ankle sprain that didn’t fully heal, but a messed up neck (his sons jumped on him before the first playoff game, he said) that required shots just for him to be able to move it. It’s something that can happen to any player in any sport, but is especially tough for a guy who came to the Lakers for almost the sole purpose of being a difference maker when it counted. When he was right physically, Barnes was a solid bench producer in his two seasons in Los Angeles, contributing on the glass, on D and in transition but also with his general activity and toughness.

- Barnes wouldn’t have traded his experience in Los Angeles despite taking less money to come in the first place and not reaching his championship goal. He really valued his time, but as a free agent, doesn’t know what will happen next season.

- Barnes did not play in the final game against Oklahoma City after struggling to find his game in limited minutes coming off the injuries, and while he said he’d have liked to have played more, understood that the coaching staff had to make the decisions it thought best to produce a win. He was always a good teammate, encouraging others, trying to offer advice and refusing to sulk. A loyal guy, Barnes was very well liked by his teammates.

- Barnes with a quick summary of it being tough learning a new system from a new coaching staff: “It was an old system meeting a completely new system.”

- On if the Lakers could have won, and why they didn’t: “Yes. I just didn’t feel we really hit our stride. I think at times we showed flashes of how dominant we could be, but we really didn’t reel off six, seven, eight or nine consistent, convincing wins that you kind of need to to really feel good about yourself. Any time you have a big three like we have, you’re always going to have a chance, but it takes more than three guys to win and there wasn’t really that consistency.

Injury Update: Matt Barnes

In the first half of LAL’s double overtime victory over Oklahoma City on Sunday, Matt Barnes sprained his right ankle, putting him out for the remainder of the half.

Barnes managed to play through the pain to start the third quarter, but was replaced by Devin Ebanks later and did not return.

The ankle was tender enough over the next few days that Barnes has not been able to practice, and will not travel with the team to Thursday’s season finale against Sacramento.

Barnes did state on his Twitter account that he’s planning on being ready for L.A.’s first playoff game, likely on Saturday or Sunday, and will continue to rehabilitate up to that point with the team’s training staff.

The Lakers are already short-handed after news broke Tuesday that Metta World Peace would be suspended for seven games due to an elbow to the head of OKC’s James Harden. Ebanks is expected to start against the Kings, while the rotation has yet to be determined for Round 1.

Barnes could get the starting nod, as could Ebanks, who started seven games across the past two weeks when Kobe Bryant missed action due to tenosynovitis in his left shin.

Stay tuned.

World Peace Rising


With Kobe Bryant’s imminent return
on Friday at San Antonio, the minutes and shot dispersal of L.A.’s perimeter players that have stepped up in his absence will change … just not too much, Bryant hopes, particularly in the case of Metta World Peace.

We’ll get to MWP’s jump in production shortly, but even generally speaking, Bryant explained that he doesn’t want his teammates to play any differently than they did in his absence, so impressed was he with their performance in going 5-2.

“It’s been good to see how much guys have progressed, doing things they would ordinarily not try to do,” he said after the team’s Wednesday win at Golden State. “When I’m not out there, you have to do other things. You have to experiment with your game. They had a great deal of success with it.”

Bryant’s replacement in the starting line up, Devin Ebanks, averaged 25 minutes, 6.1 points and 2.9 rebounds on 6.3 field goal attempts in doing precisely what was asked of him. Since Bryant averages 38.5 minutes per game, the 25 per from Ebanks left 13.5 additional minutes to disperse mostly between World Peace and Matt Barnes. With Kobe’s 28.1 points per game on 23 field goal attempts a night out of the line up, both wings filled the void by upping their production, with MWP carrying much of the burden:

NUMBERS WITHOUT KOBE:
World Peace: 36.4 minutes, 16.3 points, 12.7 field goal attempts
Barnes: 27.6 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 7.8 FGA’s

NUMBERS WITH KOBE:
World Peace: 25.8 mpg, 6.5 ppg, 6.5 FGA’s
Barnes: 22.3 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 5.9 FGA’s

Can L.A. get that sustained production and aggressive nature from World Peace once Bryant returns as the primary perimeter focus?

Bryant thinks so.

In his much-celebrated role as positive/extremely well-dressed assistant coach, Kobe surely noticed how effective World Peace has been, and has acknowledged how much more dangerous the Lakers are when MWP plays with that edge on offense.

In fairness, the rise of World Peace didn’t come out of nowhere; it didn’t start when Kobe went out. In fact, World Peace upped his shooting from 34 percent before the All-Star break to 43 percent since, and dropped 23 points on 8 of 13 FG’s in the game before Kobe went out. Indeed, MWP’s play has steadily improved as the season has worn on, due in no small part to his body getting in increasingly better shape after an injury-plagued offseason that made it difficult for him to train as he normally would.

“Even with Kobe returning, Metta will be more aggressive since he’s continued to get into better shape,” said Lakers player development coach Phil Handy. “I don’t see that changing over the rest of the season. Metta’s goal was to be in tip-top shape by the time the playoffs started, and that’s exactly what he’s done.”

The increase in minutes and field goal attempts has helped all the more, and not just physically.

“We’ve just been finding out a lot of things about ourselves,” Peace explained. “I had to do this when I was in Sacramento with Kevin Martin and John Salmons. I had to sit out some games sometimes. I was scoring a lot but I didn’t see what other guys could do and I wasn’t giving other guys the opportunity.

“Then I realized that these guys could really play and then that grew confidence in guys. It’s the same situation. (Kobe is) seeing something.”

With that said, no one’s more excited than World Peace for No. 24′s return.

“I can’t wait to have Kobe back, I just can’t wait,” he said. “I’ll be so happy to have him back and get him back in shape. I came here to play with Kobe. I know what type of player Kobe is and I want to win some rings and that’s why I came to Los Angeles. I can’t wait until he’s back.”

On Friday, Peace will get his wish, and if MWP plays like he’s been playing, so will Bryant.

Barnes Stepping Up

WATCH: Matt Barnes postgame video:

With Kobe Bryant wearing a suit for the fourth straight game, no Laker played better basketball than Matt Barnes, who scored a season-high 24 points on 9 of 11 shooting (four of four three-pointers) to lead L.A. to a 103-97 win over Denver on Friday night.

Barnes had been solid in the three previous Bryant-less games, averaging 8.0 points on 45 percent shooting plus seven boards per game, and added 10 more boards for his second double-double of the season vs. the Nuggets. To Metta World Peace, the energy level of his fellow small forward is to what the rest of the team should be aspiring.

“Matt Barnes is on a whole other level right now,” World Peace exclaimed. “He’s very fired up. You see the red in his eyes. We all need to get on his level.”

To Barnes, it’s the only way to do it.

“When we play hard, we’re a tough team to beat,” he said. “We’re so talented, but sometimes we’re lazy. When we’re lazy, we allow teams to do stuff that shouldn’t normally happen.”

Barnes takes issue with those judging L.A.’s bench solely by its scoring – or lack there of – since the unit ranks 30th in the NBA in points, because scoring isn’t what’s asked of the bench … not when Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have the offense run through them for nearly all 48 minutes. Indeed, even when four bench players are on the floor, either Gasol or Bynum is out there to anchor the unit, and get the majority of the touches and shots. Furthermore, each of L.A.’s primary scoring options play big minutes, Bynum’s 35:17 the low, as only Boston’s bench (15. 6 minutes) gets fewer than the Lakers’ 15.8 per game.

“There’s been talk all year that the bench can’t do this or other guys can’t do that,” Barnes said after his 24-point scoring night. “This team is a very talented team and we know our roles. My job is not going to be to score like this every night. My job is to bring energy and play hard. With nights when Kobe is out, guys have to step up.”

And so, despite Barnes’ scoring uptick (he had 13 in the team’s win at San Antonio), defense and energy remain his areas of focus, especially once Bryant returns to the line up. He hopes that will prove a useful combination as the Lakers gear up for a playoff run.

Brown Undecided on Starting SF

Lakers Coach Mike Brown has definitely decided to bring Metta World Peace off the bench this season, empowering his best defensive perimeter player towards a leadership role from the pine.

“It’s going to be good,” said Metta. “I get a chance to come in with extra responsibility … it’s going to put the other team off balance.”

That leaves an open spot in the starting line up, which we’d at first think would go to Matt Barnes, who was very effective for L.A. last season before hurting his knee in January. But Brown said after Sunday’s practice second-year wing Devin Ebanks has impressed enough in camp to warrant a look himself.

“There’s a good chance I’m going to start Matt (Monday) and Devin (Wednesday),” said Brown. “Or I may start Matt (Monday) and Ebanks at halftime, and then flip it the next day. I’m not sure, I’m going to give both those guys a look.

“They’ve been playing very well for us, and they both deserve to play. They’re going to get an opportunity to continue getting looks.”

Both played well at the team’s open scrimmage on Friday at USC’s Galen Center, with Barnes scoring 10 points on 4-of-6 FG’s (two 3-pointers) with three boards and Ebanks putting in 12 points (four FT’s) without a board.

“It’s open right now,” said Barnes after the scrimmage of the starting slot. “(Coach Brown) wants to bring Ron (Metta) off the bench. I’m going to continue to play hard and hopefully get that spot.”

An early indication in Barnes’ favor is that he’s essentially fully recovered from the knee injury, moving strong and free doing the things that make him fit: rebound, defend one-on-one, run the floor, move the ball and knock down open shots.

“My knee feels good,” he said. “I’m running well. I think the last thing to come back is my explosiveness and it’s coming back. My shot feels good, my lateral movement feels good.”

Ebanks has two extra inches on the 6-7 Barnes and has been showcasing his athleticism in transition, but regardless of who starts, Barnes likes how hard the team has been playing in camp.

“Everyone is locked in,” he explained. “We didn’t really need too much motivation to get back and want to play strong this year after the way we were embarrassed last year. We’re very motivated, very focused.”

Barnes Attends Brown Presser, Pledges Return

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.

Barnes, Blake Soon Back to LAL Gym?

Steve Blake and Matt Barnes had such high hopes coming to the twice defending champion Lakers last offseason, the prospect of joining Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Co. so enticing for two veterans in search of an elusive ring.

The season ended suddenly and in collective disappointment for the Lakers 10 months later, and Barnes and Blake took the Round 2 loss to Dallas particularly hard, as neither were satisfied with what they were able to provide individually despite wanting so badly to contribute. Barnes was most frustrated about not being able to find his way back from knee surgery in January, while Blake struggled to find a rhythm within the offense, or hit the perimeter shots he’s made throughout his career.

A week past exit interviews, no Lakers player has returned to the building to start working out again (as is customary), but Director of Athletic Performance/Player Development Chip Schaefer, also in charge of strength and conditioning for the team, said he expects “gym rats like Barnes and Blake” to be among the first to come back to the gym.

Where better to start attacking all that pent up frustration?

Matt Barnes: 2010-11 Exit Interview

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.”

Artest Out, Phil Mum on Game 3 SF Starter

In the regular season, the Lakers enjoyed the rare type of NBA consistency that saw four starters play all 82 games, and Phil Jackson have to use only two line ups all year:

1) Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol
2) Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum

He’ll have to try a third line up, however, in Game 3 of the Western Semi’s against Dallas, since Artest was suspended for a game for “swinging his arm and striking the face of the Dallas Mavericks’ J.J. Barea,” according to the NBA. The incident occurred with just 24.4 seconds left in Game 2, which L.A. lost 93-81.

Jackson wasn’t going to tell us who will start at small forward after Thursday’s practice, revealing only that we (the media) would find out prior to the game.

Judging from the past few seasons, however, Jackson is not likely to want to disrupt his front court rotation, so starting Odom would be unlikely. We may have expected Matt Barnes to start at small forward, with Luke Walton getting reserve minutes, and Kobe Bryant sliding up to the 3 at times in which Jackson has Shannon Brown at the two … but an alternative line up would be Brown starting at the two, and Bryant at the three.

Artest really struggled offensively in the first two games, hitting only 27.8 percent of his shots, including 1-of-7 from three-point range after a really solid shooting performance in Round 1.

Barnes attempted only eight shots in Games 1 and 2, making two, in 13.0 mpg, but the Lakers surely hope he’ll be able to better establish a rhythm by playing big road minutes in a playoff game, something he’s never done in Purple and Gold. Brown went a combined 6-of-10 in the first two games, missing the only three triple he made but finished well at and around the rim.

We’ll see how it all pans out in a bit over 24 hours when Game 3 tips in Dallas.

Barnes, Bench Making Strides

When L.A.’s bench was playing so well early in the season, it was getting significant contributions from three players who took up the “Killah B’s” moniker.

Steve Blake was setting up the offense and knocking down threes, Shannon Brown hitting open shots and Matt Barnes filling lanes in transition and hitting the offensive glass. All three played a very aggressive style on defense, and leads attained by the starters were being maintained or built upon.

Then, in January, Barnes hurt his knee. From that point on, the bench wasn’t able to establish the same level of consistency, despite getting terrific all-around play from Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom.

Barnes, at last, is finally starting to feel like himself, and the result has been very palpable in L.A.’s Round 1 series with New Orleans.

When he struggled in Game 1 and Blake sat out with the chickenpox, L.A. got entirely outplayed by the Hornets’ bench. But in Games 2 and 3, Barnes has simply looked more healthy, Blake has returned, and the Lakers returned the favor:

LAL – N.O. BENCH PRODUCTION:
Game 1:
Lakers: 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal on 8-of-16 FG’s (50%)
Hornets: 39 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals on 16-of-22 FG’s (72.7%)

Game 2:
Lakers: 27 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals on 13-of-20 FG’s (65%)
Hornets: 13 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals on 5-of-17 FG’s (29.4%)

Game 3:
Lakers: 20 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, on 7-for-18 FG’s (38.9% FG’s)
Hornets: 9 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, on 4-for-17 FG’s (23.5% FG’s)

Barnes made all four of his shots in Game 2 to score eight points with four boards and two steals, then picked up two more steals and boards with a single bucket in Game 3. After Saturday’s practice at the Hornets’ facility, Barnes spent some time with us to explain what exactly has been working better.

To watch the 1-on-1 interview, CLICK HERE, or head over to Lakers.com.