Matt Barnes Needs Surgery, Who Fills In?

Darius Soriano —  January 8, 2011

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

After Matt Barnes injured his knee in Friday’s game vs the Suns Hornets, Phil Jackson stated that he wasn’t optimistic about the injury.  Turns out that Phil was right.  It’s now been confirmed that Matt Barnes is going to need surgery on his injured right knee after an MRI revealed a torn lateral meniscus.

So what does this mean for the Lakers?  While the recovery timeline can vary (and we’ll know more about that after the surgery is performed) we do know that Barnes is out the lineup and the team must continue on without him.

Obviously, this will be an issue.  Barnes, despite being a reserve, has been the Lakers most productive small forward this season outpacing Artest in most statistical categories per 36 minutes while also having a higher PER.  Barnes has also played very good defense holding the man he’s guarding to below league average PER when playing both small and power forward.  Besides the production, though, where Barnes has really helped are in his hustle and athleticism.  On a team that isn’t stacked with quickness or great athleticism on the wing, Barnes provided just that with his slashing and ability to fill the lane while running the court.  Not to mention he’s been an integral part of the Lakers’ rotation, playing nearly 21 minutes a game.

And with Barnes out, those minutes will need to go to another player and the hope will be that the production will be replaced by whoever fills in.

The first (and easiest) way to try and replace Barnes will be with more Ron Artest.  After all, Ron’s already getting the majority of the SF minutes each night (playing about 27 mpg), so an extra 5-8 minutes a night shouldn’t be too much of a problem for a guy that does keep himself in good physical condition.  Plus, Ron would probably appreciate the extra run (though obviously not under these circumstances).  In recent weeks, Ron has mentioned that he’d like to close more games – a role that Barnes (or Shannon) often fills as the second wing next to Kobe.  And in a way, this “opportunity” may be just what Ron needs to get back on track and find some rhythm with his game.  Last year, Ron often played without a viable back up and while his offense wasn’t any better than what he’s shown this year his focus and defense did have a bit more bite to it.  Maybe with Matt out and with more minutes available to him, Ron can fall back into last year’s role and find a bit more comfort in his game.

The other obvious way to fill in for Barnes is to play that Kobe guy more.  According to the fine folks at Land O’ Lakers, Kobe has stated that he’d have no problem taking on more minutes so it’s easy to imagine Kobe getting an additional 5-10 minutes a night as a SF than he’s had so far this season.  Mind you, this doesn’t mean that Kobe will actually play 40-43 mintues a night (I expect Kobe to still be in that 33-38 minute range), but it does mean that more of his minutes will be at SF with Shannon Brown likely being the guy whose minutes increase the most.

As for the other options, unlike last year, Luke Walton is healthy and available for more run.  In the past couple of games he’s been shooting the ball better and his feel for the offense hasn’t diminished at all while he’s been receiving DNP-CD’s.  Walton is the least skilled defender of all the Laker wings, but he’s surely good for 5-10 minutes a night of trying hard on that side of the ball while still bringing his Triangle know-how.  Where the Lakers can get some defense on the wing is in rookie Devin Ebanks.  It’s been reported that the Lakers will recall Ebanks from his D-League assignment with the Bakersfield Jam so there’s always a chance that Phil turns to the rook for a short burst now and again as a guy to play tough D or infuse some athleticism and quickness into the lineup.  Ebanks is probably the least likely player to be thrust into action (I see garbage time minutes and lots of practice time in his future, but not a lot of meaningful court time) but the young man does possess a solid skill set and has proven ready to play when Phil has called his number this year.

In the end, Barnes being out is a blow to the Lakers but not an insurmountable one.  Small forward was a position (along with PG) that was giving the Lakers low-ish production and that was with Barnes’ contributions.  So while the team may suffer some with him out it’s tough to say that it’s going to matter a great deal considering the team wasn’t relying on that position for stellar play each night.  A combination of more Ron, some Kobe and Brown, and Luke should be enough to get this team what they need from the position each night.  All that said, get well soon Matt.  The team will need you for the stretch run.

Darius Soriano

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to Matt Barnes Needs Surgery, Who Fills In?

  1. Good article. I would love to see Ebanks get some burn. Trial by fire, is always nice but not something the PJ does.


  2. Barnes’ intensity and toughness will be missed, no doubt. Luckily, the 3 is the spot where we’re deepest… it’ll be well covered between Ron, Kobe, Luke and young Ebanks. Another candidate that hasn’t been mentioned much around the blogs, is Odom. It’s a position where he has considerable experience, after all. He’s needed inside but with Bynum back, there’s certainly more flexibility. I wouldn’t expect anything like an actual tall trees lineup but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some in-sequence shifts.


  3. Hello FBG, long time.

    Well I wouldn’t want to see our tall trees lineup with LO as SF as much as I did last year before the ugly road game in Sacramento.

    Just doesn’t work. Not to say it won’t. Besides, LO is now the weapon off the bench. Blaker has off nights but he mostly is what he is — a backup. Joe Smith has to get some burn too but I only see that in an attempt to spare our bigs the minutes or during garbage time. Brown is a switch, on average, a brick-layer though smarter at worst and a potent JR-Smith-like force at best (and not oddly, this doesn’t happen in as many times JR becomes one). This makes me miss our bench early on this year.

    Barnes will be missed but that is that and given Phil’s tastes expect more of Walton jacking up shots, thankfully within the flow and those smooth passes that make us wonder what could have been. Also expect his soft and immovable (meaning him being rock-slow) on defense. This is where Ebanks getting good D-League burn will help. I am banking on Ebanks to give Luke a run for his time with hustle and slashing much like Barnes did. Of course, the Barnes-like instincts and know-how will not be replaced.

    Or, Kobe would ask or get the minutes and that I do not wish to see necessary. But the way Ron has been playing (not going to magically get his pre-season mojo back) and that our front office does not dine and deal like the Celtics does, Kobe will get some more burn. Maybe it gets him back to some groove, although his play in the last 2 games is encouraging.

    Honestly, I do not know what to expect from these changes. Good thing is that these will be minor changes. GO LAKERS!


  4. I’m keeping my fingers crossed as well that Barnes will be back to game speed come play-off time.

    Since we’ve been wondering recently what had the Lakers playing so uninspired – Roland Lazenby has some insider info that shows what might have gone on behind the scenes.

    If true, this would explain the lack of cohesion and inspiration and also the effort of Gasol. Of course he shouldn’t use this as an excuse, but at some point it has to become frustrating playing over 40 minutes a night and practicing while Kobe sits out and Phil Jackson needles Gasol through the media.

    “You talkin’ about practice?”


  5. Lazenby, in my experience, likes to create something out of nothing. Or rather, likes to exaggerate to get more visibility.

    The link, while perfectly feasible, too neatly ties everything together 🙂


  6. I doubt Ebanks will see much time. With all the other issues they are trying to address, I don’t think they will want to try to teach him the triangle at this point. Some combination of Artest, Walton, and Kobe seems most likely.


  7. I, personally, would like to see Lamar at the 3 coming off the bench. However, it would require Joe Smith to get some run. Subs would look like this:

    Keep either Bynum/Gasol on the floor
    Joe Smith PF
    Lamar SF
    Shannon SG
    Blake PG

    Maybe I’m the only one, but I think Joe Smith can still go. He’s a better option at the 4 than Luke at the 3, certainly. Plus, Lamar will DOMINATE any team’s 3 coming off the bench. I think on some nights (depends on the team) this could be an effective line up for stretches.

    If nothing else, it could spare Kobe the SF minutes. What’s more likely? Phil brings in the rookie at the 3, or Joe Smith at the 4??


  8. I think the one area the Lakers will miss Barnes is in the rebounding department, especially on the offensive end. Artest isn’t much of a rebounder these days. Ditto for Walton. I also thought Barnes was good in transition, something that Devin Ebanks could provide. I think Ebanks will get more minutes than we anticipate even if Phil is known to not play rookies.

    I agree with Darius, Brown will probably see an increase in minutes with Kobe playing at SF. There will probably be no changes in Kobe’s minutes played. Along with Blake’s sprained ankle and the Barnes injury, the Lakers should sign Trey Johnson for 10 days just to have a healthy body off the bench who has some ball handling skills.


  9. Perfect opportunity to get Ebanks some time, let him run and perhaps get some transition baskets. Why not?

    Would also like to see Joe Smith get 8 minutes or so, may need him at some point. I think he has a little somthing in the tank.

    Losing Barnes is a huge blow, great hustle guy who moves the ball…


  10. I’d rather pump up Artest’s minutes and keep Kobe’s where they are. We don’t want Kobe limping through the playoffs, constantly draining fluid from his knee. And this is the perfect opportunity to see if more minutes allows Ron to get into more of a rhythm and break out of his funk.


  11. Great write-up. In my view, the best solution would be to slide Kobe down to the three more often, and increase Shannon’s minutes at the two. Shannon gets more (needed) burn, Kobe’s minutes are transfered to another position rather than increased overall, and we maintain the athleticism Barnes brought with Shannon.


  12. Aside from the potential for increased minutes, I like the idea of shifting Kobe over to the 3. Traditionally (although not always in practice) a 3 tends to be a bit slower than a 2 and this is something that Kobe can take advantage of. As far as D goes, Kobe could still try to funnel his man to our bigs, so any potential disadvantage as far as size goes can be attenuated in this practice (that’s if Kobe actually decides to guard his man, instead of roam)

    I personally don’t think Ebanks is the answer either. He’s solid for a rookie, but I think a little extra pressure on guys like Artest isn’t a bad thing.


  13. Luke. That’s as easy as that. Bump Ron’s minutes to about 30-32, give 10-12 minutes to Luke and the remainder 8 minutes can be shared between Kobe, Brown and Odom, depending on the matchup. Not that difficult, right?

    And I’m not saying that Luke is a great defender, because he is not. But he is not a TERRIBLE defender. You can use him against the larger SF’s of this league without being a problem on defense (contrary to Kobe’s gunning for the steal, which is a problem).


  14. It looks like Ebanks will, in fact, be part of the solution. He was recalled from the Lakers D-League team in Bakersfield today.