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Matt Barnes deserves starting spot

December 17, 2011 | 11:46 am

He's hardly ever consumed with statistics. He provides endless energy off the bench. And he knows a thing or two about reality television life.

Yup, that's what Laker fans will miss about Lamar Odom, except perhaps his T.V. gig with wife/reality star Khloe Kardashian. But we're not talking about what the Lakers will miss with the team wrongfully shipping Odom and a second-round pick to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round pick and $8.9-million trade exception.

We're talking about what Matt Barnes could do should Lakers Coach Mike Brown hand him the starting small forward spot, an position that he says includes Barnes, Devin Ebanks and Luke Walton as options. Just like Odom, Barnes avoids padding his stats, proves adapatable and has reality television connections with his ex-fiance Gloria Govan. Though his presence hardly fills the spot Odom once left, Barnes remains the most capable player to take his place.

"I know what I am. I know I'm a role player," Barnes said. "I don't need numbers. I don't need plays called for me. I can make things happen just off of hustle, being smart and reading my other teammates. I see it no different for me and easier for me since we have so much offensive talent."

Nonetheless, Odom and Barnes play a vastly different game, Odom is left-handed, often directs the offense up top and has an uncanny knack for driving to the basket, sinking midrange jumpers and grabbing rebounds. Barnes is right-handed, usually scores off hustle plays and has an uncanny knack for adding energy and aggressiveness, particularly on defense. 

But the way they approach the game will mesh well with a team, depleted roster or not, still featuring a star-studded lineup with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum providing most of the points. Barnes also presents the best option in less than ideal circumstances. Brown moved Metta World Peace to a bench position, a smart move considering he remained lost last year. Ebanks looks promising, but it's more uncertain how he'll handle a starting position with his inexperience. And Walton didn't look like he could keep up with everyone else in a scrimmage Friday.

With Barnes, the only uncertainty involves how his surgically repaired right knee will fare in a compacted 66-game schedule, though he said after Friday's scrimmage it felt "good." But everything else about his game shows why Barnes remains the most deserving to start at small forward.

Said Barnes: “So I’m going to continue to play hard and hopefully get that spot.” 


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Matt Barnes in contact with Dwight Howard on playing future

-- Mark Medina

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