Five things Matt Barnes needs for a successful season
1. Successfully rehab the knee. On paper, it appears Matt Barnes' first season with the Lakers was little more than a bust. In reality, Barnes' 6.7-points-per-game average on 47% shooting pointed to his inability to fully heal and successfully play while dealing with his surgically repaired right knee. After the lateral meniscus tear in that knee against New Orleans on Jan.7, Barnes appeared more tentative than usual.
The prolonged lockout, Barnes has said, has given him time to fully heal. It's crucial that he returns to full health as that was the main variable that kept his 2010-2011 season from being successful.
2. Maintain interest in doing the little things. Last season, Barnes minimized his learning curve in understanding the triangle and fitting into a superstar-laden roster because of his willingness to do the little things. He became remarkably efficient because of his constant cutting, offensive put-backs and overall hustle for loose balls. With Coach Mike Brown's insistence on that mindset, continually playing with that attitude will immediately earn Barnes a key bench role.
3. Bring toughness. Sometimes Barnes' chippiness can go overboard, and he'll have to channel that. But for the most part, his intensity rubs off on his teammates. The more players share Kobe Bryant's mentality the better, because there are many Lakers, mainly Pau Gasol, who don't play with enough aggression when it's necessary.
4. Become prepared for an elevated role. Had Barnes not been injured, it's possible that he may have eaten into Metta World Peace's minutes more. I don't think Barnes ever would've taken the starting spot because Phil Jackson knew that would've affected the former Ron Artest's fragile psyche. But the more Barnes played consistently and Peace didn't, the more likely it became that they would switch roles. It remains unclear how Peace will play, but it's possible that his declining abilities and questionable decision-making will spur inconsistency. Barnes needs to be prepared as a viable alternative.
5. Improve the Lakers' defense. Because of Peace's inconsistency and Bryant's need to pace himself, Barnes has an opportunity to become the team's most reliable wing defender. It remains unclear if that will happen, however, because he has had problems in that department. Particularly after his rehab, Barnes often fouled too hard to compensate for losing his man.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Matt Barnes: Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times