With the hiring of new head coach Mike Brown, the Lakers community knows that defense is going to be the mentality for the team next season. After all, the prevalent need for defense is one of the key reasons why Brown was hired as Phil Jackson’s successor. The Lakers have made many moves during the past couple of years to bring defensive minded players to the squad, including acquiring Ron Artest and the development of Andrew Bynum. Kobe Bryant has always a defensive threat to opponents, especially around the perimeter.
However, there is one Laker who wasn’t able to fully demonstrate to the Lakers his true defensive capabilities. That player is Matt Barnes, who was signed as a free agent last summer. Barnes has defensive skills and the ability to be a solid offensive contributor as well, which he displayed with the Golden State Warriors, the Phoenix Suns, and the Orlando Magic. Barnes was assigned to provide a defensive spark off the bench when substituting for Ron Artest.
On January 7, 2011 Barnes injured his right knee while playing against the New Orleans Hornets. The injury to his lateral meniscus required surgical repair, which kept him off the court for two months. Barnes’ return was much anticipated as his absence from the bench was felt primarily on the defensive end. His minutes were down, which was expected, in order to slowly get him back to playing his game. Yet, as the season came to the end stretch and the postseason started, Barnes’ contributions weren’t there. Barnes remarked that he wasn’t playing at 100% and had limited movement. This especially hurt the Lakers, who were already struggling to defend the Dallas Mavericks’ bench.
The Lakers can count on Matt Barnes to remain in purple and gold for at least another year, as he recently announced that he will exercise his option to stay with the team. Last week it was announced that Barnes’ last MRI on that injured right knee revealed “continued improvement”, causing his doctors and Lakers’ trainer, Gary Vitti, to be confident for a full recovery. This is great news for the team and the Lakers fans who can anticipate a healthy Barnes for next season.