Matt Barnes and Phil Jackson differ on timetable for the forward's return
Throughout his rehabilitation process, Lakers forward Matt Barnes has understood the fine line between pushing up the intensity toward healing his surgically repaired right knee and putting himself at further risk.
But his might be one of those times when his desire to come back quickly has gotten the best of him. After Barnes told reporters he hoped to return to the court either Sunday at Oklahoma City or Tuesday at Minnesota, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson made it clear the team's medical staff doesn't support Barnes' timetable.
"I appreciate his intensity and his wanting to come back, but I'll talk to Matt tomorrow about it," Jackson said. "I haven't really talked to him about it yet. I'd hate to say anything, but we're still saying, 'Let's be patient.' We're not in dire need now."
Well, maybe at least compared with last week, when the Lakers entered the All-Star break with a three-game losing streak and lost to the league's worst team, Cleveland. The Lakers have reeled off two consecutive victories and enter Friday's game against the Clippers with performances that revealed to guard Kobe Bryant that "the team that won championships the last two years is still somewhere around here."
Still, the Lakers (40-19) trail San Antonio (47-10) by eight games and Dallas (41-16) by two games, while maintaining only a 2 1/2 game lead over Oklahoma City (36-20) for the third spot in the Western Conference. Jackson said Barnes needs to have a full practice before any further assessments.
"I think I need to be out there more than they need me out there," said Barnes, who's averaged 7.4 points on 47.4% shooting and 4.8 rebounds in 20.8 minutes per game in 37 contests. "It's been a while, man, and we started off the last home stretch well, and I just want to get back in and do anything I can to help the team win.”
-- Mark Medina
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