With Kobe currently fatigued and struggling, Andrew Bynum still showing signs of frustrating immaturity, and Pau Gasol here and there, the Lakers are having an up-and-down season that has them playing like championship contenders one week, then like a team that could lose in the first round the next. They're just inconsistent. A large part of this inconsistency is due to the fact the Lakers don't have much of a bench, and it doesn't help that Mike Brown seems to make matters worse with no desire to make sense with his rotations. In spite of the bench's penchant for losing leads, and Brown's clueless substitution patterns(?), Matt Barnes, in my opinion, has probably been the Lakers' most consistent player this season.
While playing in a contract year, the 32-year-old Barnes has done all of the things he was brought here to do before last season. He's the garbage man who collects easy buckets off of missed shots, timely cuts, and running out on transition opportunities. He's been especially good since he's improved his three-point shooting over the past month. His shooting stroke allows more space for him to find lanes to cut to the basket. When Kobe Bryant, in full Mamba-mode is finding Barnes for wide open lay-ups, that should tell you how active he's been creating easy buckets for himself. Since the Lakers acquired Ramon Sessions, Barnes has been able to play his brand of basketball no matter what point guard is on the floor, meaning his effectiveness doesn't suffer no matter what kooky line-up Mike Brown trots out there. When Fish was around, Matt's opportunities for fastbreak points were slim to none, meaning Matt's real value was only realized when Steve Blake was on the floor. With Sessions, Barnes has been playing at his absolute best.
On February 18th, Matt won his first POTW. Here's what I had to say:
"The largest benefactor of Blake's return has been Barnes. With a point guard who pays attention to cutters, Barnes has been able to excel at doing the only two things he should focus on, running and rebounding. He's finding opportunities in transition due to his ability to find the right seam on fast break chances. Also, he's been great a finding cuts in halfcourt offense, which lead to wide open lay-ups and drives. Steve Blake may have trouble making simple entry passes to Andrew Bynum, but he's doing just fine rewarding Barnes' hustle. When those cuts aren't leading to lay-ups, they're creating opportunities for easy putbacks off rebounds. The three-pointers we wanted Matt to stop shooting? He's only shooting them when he's wide-the-f-open and has to. On defense, he is what he is. He has some trouble at times, but it isn't for lack of trying. He plays as well as he can, steals lazy passes, and hustles for loose balls."
Basically, he's been the same guy who won that award, only better with Sessions. If it weren't for the great weeks of the big three, or Ramon Sessions' brand new car feel, Matt could have won at least 2-3 more. If only he had another mate or two on the bench to match his play night in and night out, then maybe Kobe might not rank in the top three in the NBA in minutes. Blame that on Coach Brown, but credit him for giving Matt an opportunity to finish the game in crunch time. It was passes from Matt that Kobe and Bynum scored easily on in back to back trips in the final moments of last night's game to help the Lakers finish off the Hornets. And the guy who secured the defensive rebound to seal the win? You got it, Matt Barnes.
This is Matt's second POTW. Here are his stats for the week:
In four games:
9.5 points, 5.25 rebounds, 2.75 assists, 1.0 blocks per game in 25 minutes per game. He shot 15-of-29 for 51% from the floor, including 4-of-11 from three for 36.3% 3PT, and 4-6 from the line for 66.6% FT.
3/25 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
3/27 @ Golden State Warriors
3/29 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
3/31 vs. New Orleans Hornets
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