Matt Barnes doesn't need to apologize for altercation
First came Matt Barnes' owning up to his one-game suspension for his role in an altercation during the Lakers' double-digit victory Thursday over Dallas at Staples Center. Instead of bringing the same toughness and energy, he watched the Lakers' 96-85 victory Friday against the Utah Jazz at the team hotel.
"It wasn't something I wanted to be doing," Barnes said. "But I accept full responsibility for my actions."
Then came Barnes' admission that he knew the NBA would punish him. After Dallas guard Jason Terry shoved Steve Blake to the ground after fouling him in the fourth quarter, Barnes stepped into the fray and pushed Terry. When Dallas assistant Terry Stotts wrapped his arms around Barnes from behind, he pushed aside the Mavericks coach and knocked him onto courtside seats.
"I knew I was getting something the way things go down these days," Barnes said. "I knew for pushing, you get a suspension."
And then came the continuous trash talk toward Terry, who has since hit the airwaves and argued that Barnes is "as soft as Charmin toilet paper."
"I'm not worried about what he's talking about," Barnes said. "In Golden State, we showed how to beat Dallas [in the 2007 NBA playoffs.] You go in there and take it right to their chin and they back down. I don't see anything has changed since then, so hopefully we'll have a chance to see them again."
Nowhere in Barnes' interview after Saturday's practice at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo did he apologize. Instead, Barnes, a co-owner of Elusion Clothing, acknowledged the irony in touting new T-shirts, with one reading "Matt Barnes Will Kill You, If Ron Artest Doesn't First" and the other featuring the "Killah Bees," the nickname bestowed on Barnes, Blake and Shannon Brown, all three of whom interestingly enough drew ejections against Dallas. Barnes acknowledged he'd like to face the Mavericks in the playoffs. And he admitted he plays more physical against certain players, such as Terry.
But that's fine. Barnes doesn't need to apologize for his transgressions because they served a higher purpose. He stood up for Blake, which will forge a tighter bond between the two close teammates. He demonstrated the Lakers' toughness, an ingredient the team will need Sunday against the Denver Nuggets and in the playoffs. And he sent the message to other teams that the Lakers won't back down.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson expressed concern that Barnes needs to keep his emotions in check so that he doesn't draw ejections. That's fine. I thought the same thing when Andrew Bynum drew a two-game suspension for throwing a forearm to airborne Minnesota forward Michael Beasley. But Barnes is a different player. He's long played with that physically aggressive reputation and that role is the reason why the Lakers signed him last offseason.
"Down the stretch we've shown you're not going to come to our house and push us around," Barnes said. "But for myself and the rest of the team we can't afford to be getting kicked out of the games or giving teams free shots on technical fouls. We need to do that on a controlled manner."
But should the Lakers experience another altercation, Barnes will be right there, supporting his teammates, playing the enforcer role and ensuring the Lakers don't back down. So there's no need for Barnes to apologize for what he did to Terry. He was simply just filling the job description.
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Photo: L akers forward Matt Barnes is restrained by Dallas assistant coach Terry Stotts after getting into an altercation with Mavericks guard Jason Terry (not pictured) during Thursday's game at Staples Center Credit: ae C. Hong / Associated Press / March 31, 2011