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NBA makes right decision in suspending Matt Barnes, but questionable why Jason Terry goes unpunished

April 1, 2011 |  4:50 pm


Letting out a deep sigh, Lakers forward Matt Barnes pondered for a few seconds.

He had been asked whether he thought the NBA would suspend him for his actions that sparked an ejection in the Lakers' 110-82 victory Thursday over the Dallas Mavericks. He could've offered the same chippiness as he did when he pushed Jason Terry shortly after the Mavericks guard gave Lakers guard Steve Blake a hard shove to the ground. Barnes could've answered with the same defiance when he broke free from the bearhug of Dallas assistant Terry Stotts from around his waist. And Barnes could've responded with the same swagger that he's demonstrated throughout his eight-year career and when he took off his jersey before he threw it into the Staples Center stands as he walked toward the entrance tunnel.

Instead Barnes shook his head, stared at the ground and sighed. "I don't know," Barnes said. "I don't know. I have no idea."

Clearly, Barnes wouldn't have been surprised or shocked had the NBA suspended him, a decision the league didn't announce until five hours before the Lakers' game tonight at Utah. When the NBA announced he would serve a one-game suspension without pay, Barnes immediately went to his Twitter account, eager to embrace the positive he could make of sitting out for a game and losing $17,650 in pay. "I get an extra day of rest for my knee," Barnes tweeted. "Ill be watching the game 2nite w/the rest of the laker fans, on tv. All good team will keep it ... Rolln 2nite vs the Jazz.. Ill be bak sunday. Appreciate the support from all the lakeshow fans.. RESPECT!!"

The NBA properly characterized Barnes' intervention as "escalating an on-court altercation and actions following his ejection." Barnes also properly characterized his involvement in wanting to stand up for Blake and sending a message to Terry and any other opponent that "you're not going to come into our house and try to throw us around." The NBA mistakably didn't send the message to Terry.

Instead, the league downgraded Terry's flagrant foul type 2 to a type 1 and declined to suspend him. Apparently the NBA rulebook that says it determines suspensions based on "how hard the foul was; the outcome of the foul (e.g., whether it led to an altercation)" doesn't apply in Terry's case. Terry's foul on Blake was intentional and hardly fit the description of a basketball play simply because he pushed him. The outcome of the foul sparked Blake to jaw with him, Barnes pushing Terry as officials and teammates tries to separate the two and officials levying out ejections during the entire sequence to Barnes, Blake, Terry and Dallas center Brendan Haywood. How that doesn't fit the description of a foul leading to an altercation is beyond me.

Barnes sitting out a game won't mean much in the long run and a suspension was worth what Barnes did against Dallas. As much as the bench would like to sharpen its chemistry and consistency before the playoffs begin, Barnes' decision to stand up for Blake bolstered their relationship, continued a pattern where the Lakers are demonstrating their toughness and, on a lesser note, gave him a bigger platform to sell his newly released T-shirts. But the NBA's inaction on Terry will only fuel the animosity between the Lakers and Terry. He's already boasted Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher are too old to guard the Mavericks' backcourt, called Barnes "as soft as Charmin tissue paper" and can laugh gleefully over escaping the NBA's wrath. 

Barnes, for one, won't forget it, showing the chippiness, swagger and defiance that was absent when addressing a possible suspension but forever present on the court when the Lakers needed it the most.

"NO ONES worried bout wat Jason Terry is talkn bout," Barnes tweeted. "everyone remembers the 07 season ... Me & the Golden St homies laid out the blueprint on how to beat Dallas.. "PUNK'EM" Aint [expletive] changed homey.. So enough w/the small talk."

--Mark Medina

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Photo: Lakers forward Matt Barnes, left, is restrained by teammate Lamar Odom, center, as Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen looks on during the second half of the Lakers' 110-82 victory over Dallas on Thursday. Barnes was ejected after getting into a confrontation with Dallas guard Jason Terry. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / March 31, 2011