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Matt Barnes accuses Blake Griffin of flopping

Cast Matt Barnes as one of the few not exactly enthralled with the "Lob City" Clippers.

After seeing them throw down numerous dunks during their preseason win Wednesday over the Lakers, Barnes maintained the team's apparent excessive celebrations prompted him to push Clippers forward Blake Griffin to the floor with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter.

"It's a preseason game," Barnes said after Thursday's practice at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo. "Yeah, they're catching lobs and dunking. But it's just a preseason game. Let's just play basketball. If you make a dunk, act like you've done it before. He's got hundreds of them. There's no need for the hoorah after every single dunk. It's unnecessary."

Lakers forward Pau Gasol made similar claims after the game Wednesday, accusing the Clippers of flopping. Gasol refused to name anyone personally. But after seeing Griffin fall after his initial push and an offensive foul late in the game, Barnes didn't mince words. 

"One of the best athletes I've ever seen," Barnes said of Griffin. "But all the flopping is unnecessary. That's the way he plays and it works. They called it so you can't be mad at him for it."

In fact, the Lakers appeared very mad because of it. Gasol, Barnes and Josh McRoberts often played with Griffin contentiously any time he touched the ball. Last season, Griffin irked Lamar Odom because he physically fought for a rebound in the waning seconds of a blowout game.

Barnes is no stranger to mixing it up. He pushed Dallas guard Jason Terry in a regular season game last season after he shoved Steve Blake to the ground. Barnes then broke free from a bearhug of Dallas assistant Terry Stotts.

Of course, two seasons ago, Barnes also played contentiously when matched up with Kobe Bryant. He went to greath lengths to rattle his focus. So much that he pretended to throw an inbounds pass at Bryant's face. 

But in this case, Barnes maintains his push has nothing to do with his physical nature. 

"I don't think they were necessarily rubbing it in," Barnes said of the Clippers. "I just think they're excited about their season, which they should be. They got a very talented team. But just play basketball."

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--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Things to watch in second Lakers-Clippers preseason game

Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers and Clippers meet tonight for their second preseason matchup:

1. How much improvement will the Lakers make on defense? The Lakers' 114-95 loss to the Clippers on Monday highlighted plenty of reasons why Coach Mike Brown remains upset with the team's defensive effort -- including closing out on perimeter shooters, a huge factor in why the Clippers went 13 of 28 from three-point range. There's also the problem of getting back on transition defense, a large part of why the Clippers scored 29 points off the Lakers' 21 turnovers. And there's also the matter of the Lakers having little answer for Chris Paul's 17 points.

The Lakers' first preseason game was a potent reminder that they'll likely struggle for most of the season in defending against quick teams and stopping fast-break points. One practice session won't rectify that. But the Lakers and, most notably, Kobe Bryant can easily improve on closing out on shooters. Part of it is the team's learning curve, because most of the concepts last season centered on forcing drivers into the lane. Brown's defense has similar ideas in that department, but it also stresses keeping perimeter shooters honest.

2. Can the Lakers' offensive chemistry improve? Everyone -- Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum included -- acknowledged making reads and cuts that mirrored Phil Jackson's offense at different times during Monday's game. That led to confusion on how the Lakers should run Brown's "strong corner" offense, making the inside production from Gasol (16 points) and Bynum (15 points) pretty deceptive. Because the Lakers' offense hinges more on their production, such mishaps will significantly weaken their options.

3. How much should Kobe play? The Lakers diagnosed him with a sprained right wrist after taking a fall during Monday's game, but he practiced Tuesday and is expected to play in the rematch. But it'd be a good idea for Brown to minimize Bryant's minutes so he can heal and the Lakers can further figure out who should play behind him at shooting guard. 

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Matt Barnes to start at small forward against Clippers

Matt Barnes

Mike Brown on Clippers game

Although the starting small forward spot remains undetermined, Lakers Coach Mike Brown said Matt Barnes has the "advantage" in earning that position.

For now, Barnes will start at small forward in Monday's preseason game against the Clippers, while Brown plans to start Devin Ebanks in Wednesday's game against the same team.

"He's been a little bit more consistent," Brown said of Barnes. "He's done a few more things, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He obviously has the experience, been here and done that many times before. That's what helps him out right now."

Barnes'  6.7 points per game on 47% shooting and 4.3 rebounds in 19.2 minutes during the 2010-11 season dipped to 3.6 points per game on 37% shooting and 2.8 rebounds in 13.1 minutes in the playoffs, partly because his limitation stemming from a lateral mensiscus tear that sidelined him for 26 games and requires surgery. With the prolonged NBA lockout, Barnes has said his knee has felt nearly healthy, and expects few side affects once the season starts.

Meanwhile, Ebanks comes off his rookie season where he appeared in 20 games and averaged 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.9 minutes a contest. But both Brown and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant have publicly touted Ebanks as capable for fulfilling a starting role because of his work ethic, improved shot and defensive aggressiveness. But Brown remains wary of Ebanks' confidence level.

"I need a small forward who wants to defend, run the floor in every single possession," Brown said. "He might not get a single touch when he runs, but he'll put pressure on the defense every time he runs. I need him to rebound, slash and if that ball gets swung to him, knock down that with confidence."

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Matt Barnes deserves starting spot

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers forward Matt Barnes bears a big grin as he returns to work Friday during the team's first practice. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Matt Barnes deserves starting spot

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."

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Matt Barnes in contact with Dwight Howard on playing future

The courtship for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard goes beyond the Lakers' front office, the New Jersey Nets or a late-night phone call from Orlando's former chairman.

It also remains at the grass-roots level, as Lakers forward Matt Barnes acknowledged at the Lakers' media day Sunday that he spoke to Howard last week about his playing future. Barnes, who played for the Magic during the 2009-10 season, still keeps in touch with Howard, and made it clear last week that Howard's told him he wants to play for the Lakers. But Barnes said at the Lakers' media day Sunday that he tempered his aggressiveness in convincing Howard to wear the purple & gold.

"He has a tough decision to make," Barnes said of Howard, who reportedly has demanded a trade to the New Jersey Nets. "There’s teams pulling at him every way. We have real talks more than anything about being a Laker. He has to do what's best for him and his family and what makes him happy."

Of course, what would make Barnes happy would involve Howard wearing a Laker uniform, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the team trading Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for an $8.9-million trade exception without any clear intentions on the end goal. It remains unclear, however, whether the Lakers truly have enough to entice the Magic to trade Howard.

But for now, Barnes said he'll temper his pitches just so he doesn't come across as too overbearing. 

"He knows the opportunity he has here," Barnes said. "But with that said, it's not about what we want or the Lakers want or what I want. It's about what's best for him and his family." 

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Who would you be willing to give up to get Dwight Howard?

— Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Lakers can't let limited payroll inhibit risk-taking

Just like everyone else consumed with NBA basketball, Lakers forward Matt Barnes listens to the trade rumors.

Not all of them. He says he only cares about whether a rumor involves the Lakers. But unlike the average NBA fan, he has -- and is willing to share -- some insider knowledge, particularly when it involves any possibility his former teammates Dwight Howard or Baron Davis could join the Lakers.

"I've talked to both of those guys and they want to be here," Barnes said Friday at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. "We'll see what happens."

We sure will. But don't start pre-ordering Howard or Davis Lakers jerseys just yet. The Lakers face an unfortunate reality: A $91-million payroll, increased luxury taxes and increased revenue sharing suddenly make General Manager Mitch Kupchak worried about finances. 

"Based on our financial structure, we would be very limited in what we can do with our team in terms of free agency in the next two weeks," Kupchak said.

Fair enough. Last year, the Lakers could offer free agents a five-year, $32-million contract. This year, they can only offer a mini mid-level exception of three years and $9.4 million, as well as a veteran's minimum of one year and $1 million. Short term, the Lakers may only need to address low-hanging fruit, such as formally cutting ties with Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff, likely letting Shannon Brown go, exercising $788,872 team options on Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter and signing rookies Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. 

But as the Lakers begin free agency on Dec. 9, they can't let such scenarios inhibit their risk-taking. It's a no-brainer to pursue Howard, but it involves much more creative structuring of deals than when picking up peripheral players. It's a no-brainer to pursue Chris Paul once free agency hits next season, but why wait when he's reportedly demanding a trade to New York?

Kupchak may feel confident that the Lakers can win a title with the current roster, but playing it safe could hurt the team's long-term future once Kobe Bryant's and Pau Gasol's contracts end after the 2013-14 seasons.

Of course, Lakers owner Jerry Buss has thrived on risk-taking. But as an avid poker player, he knows that doesn't always require having the most chips. It also requires doing the most thinking. 

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Matt Barnes considers knee 98% healthy

After such a prolonged rehab on his surgically repaired right knee, Lakers forward Matt Barnes has grown accustomed to taking physicals.

It's just another reminder of unpleasant thoughts. Continuous physical therapy sessions that ate away lots of his summer. How the lateral meniscus tear on his right knee kept him sidelined for 26 consecutive games last season. The limited feeling Barnes felt on the court after having surgery.

But when he took his physical Friday at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo, it sparked a different feeling.

"I just wanted to come in here and smell the gym today, smell my locker and see how dirty it was," said Barnes, who was in street clothes on the Lakers' second day of voluntary workouts and physicals. "Listen to [Lakers trainer Gary Vitti] run his mouth. It's good to be back."

That's because after making improvements to his jumping, Barnes considers his knee 98% healthy. He believes he won't ever feel 100%  until training camp actually starts. But at a time when many could be dreading learning Mike Brown's new system in a compressed 66-game schedule, Barnes is relishing it. 

He never became accustomed to suffering his first major injury of his eight-year NBA career. But playing on eight different teams in that span, Barnes has become a quick study on fitting into a new system. Now that his injury no longer appears to be an issue, Barnes plans to study Brown's DVD highlighting the defensive principles pretty closely. 

"It wont be hard for me," Barnes said. "I do my homework in the summer time to be ready for what's going on. I know I'm going to be able to play defense, rebound and knock down open shots."

Now that Barnes has a healthy knee, he likely will.

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--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Matt Barnes to have Del Campo High jersey retired

32Matt Barnes

The NBA lockout is seen by many as an example of greed among professional sports franchises and athletes. So perhaps Matt Barnes' jersey retirement ceremony Wednesday at Del Campo High School in Sacramento will return the Lakers forward to a simpler time.  

Barnes had a storied career where he wore the No. 32 in basketball and No. 21 in football in high school, and he contemplated a professional career on the gridiron before accepting a scholarship to play for UCLA's basketball team. He compiled All-American, all-state, all-CIF, all-city and all-league honors during both his prep basketball and football days.

On Wednesday, the jersey retirement, which is scheduled to take place between the women's and men's varsity alumni games, will bring that full circle. 

The numbers speak for themselves. Consider his stat line in his junior and senior years on the hardwod (1997-99) in points, (26.5, 30), rebounds (12.5, 10), blocks (5.6, six), assists (5.5, three) and steals (three, five). His numbers on the gridiron were equally impressive during those seasons, in receptions (42, 58), yards (958, 1,112) and touchdowns (17, a nation-leading 28).

Barnes' football experience remains apparent in numerous ways. He often notes that he possesses a football player's mentality on the court, with his aggressiveness, quick instincts and physical play.

After experiencing frustrations as an NBA journeyman at the beginning of his now-eight-year career, Barnes contemplated football and in 2006 received seven or eight invitations to try out for NFL teams. He remains in touch with his older brother, Jason, who plays in the Canadian Football League. He also often opines on NFL-related news via Twitter. 

And for at least a brief moment on Wednesday, Barnes will be reminded of how he managed to excel in both sports. 

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*We will have a live chat at 2 p.m. today. Bring your questions!

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers forward Matt Barnes. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Matt Barnes unsure of Baron Davis' status in Warriors exhibition

Matt Barnes

With all the excitement surrounding the exhibition game Saturday between the current Warriors team and the 2007 team, there's one key player who may not be there.

Baron Davis.

Lakers forward Matt Barnes is sponsoring the game, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the San Jose State events center, and will donate a portion of the proceeds to Athletes vs. Cancer, which raises funds for local screenings. But he conceded in a phone interview he's been unable to convince Davis, whom Barnes views as the "leader on that team," to play. 

"I'm pretty sure he's not going to play," Barnes said of Davis. "But I'm pretty sure he'll be there. I'm going at him hard from all angles. I don't think he'll play, but I think he'll be there."

Former Warriors Stephen Jackson also won't be there because he involved in various rap gigs this off-season. But that hasn't soured Barnes' mood surrounding the event. The game features the current Warriors team (Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, David Lee, Dorrell Wright, Lou Amundson, Charlie Bell, Jeremy Bell, Jeremy Lin and Anthony Morrow) and former Warriors (Jason Richardson, Ike Diogu, Al Harrington, Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, C.J. Watson and himself). Barnes believes the game will heighten nostalgia for the 2007 team that upset the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. And he hopes it will hype the current team that has new ownership (Joe Lacob and Peter Guber), a new head coach (Mark Jackson) and a new consultant (former Lakers General Manager Jerry West) to oversee a talented back court in Ellis and Curry.

But Barnes has struggled convincing Davis to commit to playing after unspecified Twitter messages indicated Davis would play before Barnes reached out to him that he was organizing the event.

"I had to convince a few guys afterwards that I've taken the game over and I have my team running it now," Barnes said. "It's been easier to convince some more than others. But at the end of the day, I think [Davis] will be there."

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Matt Barnes: Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Matt Barnes still cherishes role with 2007 Golden State team

Matt BarnesThere are several reasons why Matt Barnes is nostalgic about the 2007 Golden State Warriors team. 

He still lives in the Bay Area during the off-season, and fans often ask Barnes about the Warriors' first-round upset against the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks. He stays in touch with former teammates Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis. And on Saturday, Barnes will host an exhibition game at the San Jose State Events Center where the current Warriors team will match up with the dubbed "We Believe" 2007 squad, with portions of the proceeds going to Athletes vs. Cancer, Barnes' foundation that provides local cancer screening units.

For Barnes, playing with the 2007 team stirs memories of a special time.

"Until I win a championship with the Lakers, that year is still the best time of my career," Barnes said of the Warriors' 2006-07 season in a phone interview. "That was more than just the best time, but my first real opportunity to show the league I can really play."

Before, Barnes said he "seriously contemplated" quitting basketball. Four years into his NBA career, stints with the Clippers, Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers produced nothing more than temporary stomping grounds before his next gig.

Sixers Coach Maurice Cheeks continuously belittled Barnes, who said he then considered an NFL career. The former letterman wide receiver at Del Campo High School said he received seven or eight invitations to try out for NFL teams. Barnes reconsidered, though, after talking with former Warriors Coach Don Nelson.

"He said, 'I can't promise anything, but I like what I've seen so far. If you continue to do this, I can find you some time,' " Barnes said about Nelson. "That was all the motivation I needed to hear that from a head coach, especially with his credentials and track record."

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