For the second time in two weeks, the long arm of NBA law has reached out and cuffed a member of the Lakers.
Friday, it was Matt Barnes forced to the sidelines, suspended one game by the league for "escalating an on-court altercation and actions following his ejection" during the fourth quarter of Thursday's 28-point smackdown (pun semi-intended) of the Dallas Mavericks at Staples. The other members of fracas No. 1 -- Steve Blake, Brendan Haywood, and Jason Terry -- received no additional punishment. Terry, in fact, saw his flagrant foul 2 reduced to a mere flagrant foul 1, despite being the guy who started all the nonsense with his shove of Blake near the baseline.
Shannon Brown, ejected in fracas No. 2 also received no additional discipline.
In the wake of these sorts of incidents, standard practice among the media is to ask the following question as many times to as many people as possible: "So, you think he'll get a game?" My reaction, along with most people I spoke with Thursday night, was yes. The NBA rightly frowns on players who, as they put it, escalate dustups, and while he wasn't technically the third guy in as Blake and Terry were jawing with each other, Barnes was clearly "the escalator." Particularly when you consider the distance he covered reaching the scrum.
Assuming the NBA is dinging him more for that than anything happening along the sidelines with Dallas assistant Terry Stotts, it's a reasonable move. While nothing really came of the scuffle, it could have, and much of it would have been on Barnes.
As for the stuff near the Dallas bench, while it looked bad to see Stotts hit the deck, Barnes didn't do anything wrong, in large part because Stotts had no business putting his arms around him in the first place. As Barnes put it Thursday, "I was just trying to walk to our bench and someone was trying to bear-hug me. I didn't realize it was a coach until I turned around, after he was kind of off me. I definitely wouldn't want to push a coach but he was bear-hugging me right on their bench."
The unwritten rule says coaches handle their own guys, save some sort of calamity. Barnes was walking toward his bench, with an official in between him and the court. Stotts meant no harm and Barnes certainly could have handled the situation with more elegance, but if this part of the proceedings added to the ledger against Barnes, it's unfair.
Barnes did, though, take a long time leaving the court, and never stopped yapping at any point, again a no-no in the eyes of the NBA. I'm sure that weighed into things, too.
All in all, it was a fair punishment, one that shouldn't hurt the Lakers too much Friday night in Utah. The Jazz are a downtrodden bunch, while the Lakers are accustomed to operating without Barnes. More importantly, the incident started what could be a top shelf Twitter war heading into a potential second round playoff matchup.