Matt Barnes' party at Supper Club caps off successful start with the Lakers
Matt Barnes walked over to the DJ, grabbed the microphone and looked out at the crowd on the dance floor.
Barnes was at Supper Club, a Hollywood nightspot that opened in September on Hollywood Boulevard, where his fiancée and reality-TV star, Gloria Govan, threw a party Saturday night in his honor, with some friends and family in attendance. The party came at the end of what Barnes said had been a long day. A morning Lakers practice preceded a team clinic for children from the Boys & Girls Club in Carson and Watts, as well as the South Bay Center for Community Development. Then it was the babysitter for their twin sons Isaiah Michael and Carter Kelly, after which Barnes and Govan finally got to party.
At the Supper Club, Barnes was greeted by a sign atop the red-carpeted entrance that read "Welcome to L.A., Matt Barnes."
Word had leaked out about the party. "I was working on it," Govan said, "and he was already getting text messages." Later, inside, Barnes, wearing a white shirt and a silver cross around his neck, held the mike and basked in his homecoming.
"What up, what up, what up," Barnes said. "I'm back in L.A., baby. I love it."
Loves it because it reconnects him with his roots; he played at UCLA from 1998 to 2002. Loves it because, as he has noted, it raises his celebrity profile; he's working on a clothing line with Christian Lucero, plus Govan has an upcoming appearance on VH1's "Basketball Wives" (Season 2 debuts Dec. 12) . Loves it because he's found a home with the Lakers, who signed him this off-season to a two-year deal worth $3.6 million. But after quickly thanking those who attended his party, Barnes neatly summed up his main reason for returning here -- as neatly as the nine points and five rebounds he's averaged in 21 minutes off the bench through the Lakers' first 20 games.
"I'm here to play basketball, and I'm here to win a championship," Barnes said. "We're going to win another championship this year."
Naturally, Barnes' confident prediction prompted cheers from everyone inside Supper Club, including people busting moves on the dance floor as well as those standing around the bar area in the back. The scene throughout the night captured L.A.: The DJ repeatedly boasted of the Lakers as "the best basketball team in the world." Barnes' play list included West Coast classics such as 2Pac's "California Love" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" as well as Snoop Dogg's "Who Am I" and "Gin and Juice." And various Lakers, including Barnes, Steve Blake, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Luke Walton, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter blended in with a crowd accustomed to celebrities. Tweeted Blake's wife, Kristen, to Govan: "I must say @GloGovan knows how to throw a party. The kind that makes you want to stay in bed all day the next day."
Though Govan joked that Barnes had "become a little Hollywood," the party provided more evidence of Barnes making himself at home in L.A. The pair walked hand in hand along the red carpet and acknowledged indefinite marriage plans only three months after Barnes was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, a charge the two publicly disputed and one that was ultimately dropped ("We're ready to stand on our own," Govan said). Barnes' longtime barber, Nick Shavott, said he'd never seen Barnes happier after bouncing through eight NBA teams and becoming frustrated with the lack of a definitive role ("It hasn't been the easiest road for him, but he perseveres"). And former NBA player Doug Christie, who played alongside Barnes for the Sacramento Kings in 2004 and 2005, said Barnes' willingness to reject the guaranteed $7 million Cleveland offered to join a title-contending roster was evidence that his priorities were in order. "He could've taken more money from other places," he said. "But he chose to come to Los Angeles because he loves L.A., and he really wants to win a championship."
Barnes has shown that commitment, boosting the Lakers to new heights. He's critical of his own understanding of the triangle, but Barnes has managed to bolster the team's bench by relying on his instincts. He creates space through penetration. He sneaks inside for offensive putbacks. He complements Ron Artest's presence on defense. And his swing, entry and inbound passes help fuel the Lakers' well-oiled offensive machine.
"They're not going to wait for us to learn," said Barnes, who has characterized his fitting-in process as smooth and leads the league reserves with the highest efficiency rating. "We have to pick it up and learn it on the fly. I'm trying to be effective in any way possible and continue to play hard."
After Lakers Coach Phil Jackson predicted in training camp that no reserve besides Odom would play more than 20 minutes per game, he joked that Barnes had managed to surpass that clip ever since Artest removed himself from the lineup in a Nov. 16 game against Milwaukee because of back and hip issues: "It's kind of worked against Ron because Matt has now started to play better than he has."
Though Artest has averaged a career-low 27.1 minutes per contest, both he and Barnes say they have designated a routine where they'll raise a hand to prompt the other to get ready to replace him in the lineup. Barnes testily guarded Bryant last season when he was with the Orlando Magic, in one instance faking an inbound pass toward Bryant’s face, but Bryant played an instrumental role in the Lakers securing Barnes. And though Odom took offense to Barnes' antics last season, he hasn't held a grudge and made it a point not to discuss the topic. "That's behind us," Odom said. "We're professionals. We're no longer enemies. It would make no sense to. I respect him. He played against us hard and now he's on our team."
Barnes appeared to feel that bond when he stood on stage at the Supper Club, and the good feelings of the crowd couldn't solely be chalked up to the bass-thumping rap music and the burlesque dancer hanging from a wire. He immediately reiterated something he said moments before on the red carpet.
"I'm coming to a team that has won two championships, yet these guys are acting like they haven't won anything," Barnes said. "That's the hunger that drives me and it's the reason why I'm here. I want to win a ring."
-- Mark Medina
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