Resurgent Matt Barnes

12/28/12 in NBA   |   AJ_88   |   166 respect

It was already August and Matt Barnes remained unemployed after the Lakers informed him they would not bring him back for the 2012-2013 season. Barnes lives in Los Angeles and had been playing pick-up ball with many of the Clippers in the offseason, establishing a rapport early and often. The Clippers decided to bring him on for the veterans minimum as a backup small forward, who figured to be behind Caron Butler and Grant Hill on the depth chart for the upcoming season.
However, Barnes is enjoying quite a successful season thus far coming off the bench behind Butler as Hill has yet to play a game this season.  The defensive focus and renewed Los Angeles ‘Showtime’ has Barnes playing at an unexpected high level.
December 21, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Los Angeles Clippers small forward Matt Barnes (22) blocks a shot by Sacramento Kings point guard Jimmer Fredette (7) at the Staples Center. Clippers won 97-85. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA Today Sports ImagesAt age 32 in his 10th NBA season, the journeyman has never really been more than a 15-minutes/game bench warmer for an assortment of teams throughout the league. He has never been on one team for more than two consecutive seasons because of his inconsistencies and random run-ins with the law.
Having put all that behind him, Barnes is averaging career highs in points (11), steals (1.3) and 3PFG% (35%) through 28 games.  He’s also playing 26 minutes per game, which is in line with his career high when he played for Orlando in 2009-2010.
But his most notable achievements are not in his stat line. He ignites the second unit along with fellow reserve Eric Bledsoe as they usually lead the break after one or the other manages to strip their opponent of the ball. Most of his buckets come in the paint because he is always streaking down the court for the fast break finish.
His much improved outside shot has also allowed the Clippers to effectively space the floor with their second unit on the court, providing space for Lamar Odom and other bigs to operate on the inside as well as Bledsoe penetration.
Jamal Crawford gains all the national media coverage as the shoe-in for Sixth Man of the Year, but Barnes won’t be far behind him as he affects the game in so many ways beyond scoring.  He typically finishes games defending one of the opponents’ top players because Del Negro trusts his defensive instincts and grit.
If he continues to play at this rate, Del Negro might have to incorporate small lineups into the Clippers 2013 repertoire as Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups will return to an already stacked lineup. But Barnes may have found a home in LA with the ‘New Kids on the Block’.  
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