To Artest’s credit, he has been playing better as of late. It looks as though he’s focused, a bit more aggressive on offense and has a spring in his step. Additionally, Bryant has demonstrated that he still trusts Artest to take and make critical shots late in the game. Artest should use this time to re-claim his spot as the main guy at small forward and hopefully carry that on once Barnes returns.
The burden to make up for Barnes shouldn’t all fall on the broad shoulders of Artest, much of the slack must also be picked up by the rest of the bench players, mainly Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and to a degree, Luke Walton.
If you’re having trouble pin-pointing Blake over the last four games, don’t bother taking an extra dose of vitamins. Your memory isn’t off, in reality Blake’s shot is off or rather is non-existent. He’s logged four points over that time span and if the Lakers are to make-up what Barnes was contributing on offense, Blake will have to do more than just one point per game. For Blake, that means actually attempting shots.
Although Walton and Barnes are listed as having the same positions, their respective games couldn’t be more night and day. Walton isn’t going to get anywhere near the minutes that Barnes had been averaging, but for the 10 or so minutes he’s out there (if that), he’ll have to be play-maker for the bench unit, take and hopefully make shots when he’s open. He’s not going to be as effective as Barnes was, he could surprise us, but it isn’t something that the team is demanding from him. The bulk of the production is dependent on Artest.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the injury to Barnes comes just as the schedule is about to get more interesting. They still have games against Boston, Orlando, Miami, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, just to name a few.
They’ve already made efforts to pick up their defense and overall focus during games from start to finish. So long as they can weather the ripple caused by Barnes’ absence, the Lakers should come out of it okay.