Resurgent Matt Barnes
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.
At 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’.