During Matt Barnes' exit interview, the small forward all but said he planned to exercise the player option in his contract and remain a Laker. By showing up to a press conference formally announcing new head coach Mike Brown, Barnes made his plans even more evident, since nobody attends an event like this while uncommitted to his current team. (For that matter, Barnes was actually the only Laker on hand.) Thus, it was only fitting he finally went whole hog and vocalized what everyone already knew.
"I'm gonna pick up my option. I'm gonna be a Laker next year," smiled Barnes. "I wanted to be back. I still feel, granted what happened in that Dallas series, we have a very talented and very good team and I want to continue to try and get that ring."
As I noted in Barnes' report card, this wholly expected outcome is a good thing for the Lakers. Before injuring his right knee, Barnes was enjoying a surprisingly strong inaugural season in L.A. He meshed well with a roster I don't expect to radically change next season, and increased time with his teammates should only create more fluidity and comfort.
Even more encouraging is the medical update on his knee. "It doesn't hurt no more, which is a good thing," nodded Barnes. There's swelling still, but it doesn't hurt, which is my main thing. I'm still like a month out from being able to run and jump. But slowly but surely, it's starting to feel like my left knee now."
Among other points raised by Barnes:
- Don't read negatively into the small forward providing the lone presence among players. For starters, a lot of guys are out of town and as much as Matt was there to a show of support for Brown, he also happened to be in the neighborhood after a rehab session. "L.A. traffic, you gotta have good timing," Barnes joked.
- Barnes got to know Mike Brown a bit last summer while making a decision about which team to join. Cleveland was among the potential destinations, and at the time, Brown was still the coach. Barnes obviously ended up with the Lakers, but still gained a good impression of his new coach:
"We spoke on the phone a few times. I got a chance to know him, he seemed like a really good guy. With that being said, he's our coach now. What he does and what he's going to do, that's yet to be determined. I just wanted to let him know he has my support. I'm sure he has the rest of the guys' support."
Barnes also offered some quality advice for creating as smooth a transition as possible for Brown:
"Just buy in. Even though we have the greatest player in the world, the coach is the leader. You know what I mean? Like he said, we need to buy into what he's bringing to the table. If we do that, we should have a really good team."
- If you happen to miss a game during the NBA Finals and want the skinny on what happened, Matt Barnes is the wrong guy to ask. The sour taste of getting swept by Dallas still lingers heavily in his mouth, and as a result, he's way out of the NBA loop. "I haven't watched a second of basketball," admitted Barnes. I ain't watched no SportsCenter, because I know basketball will on there. I'm still hurt thinking about it. One, the way we exited, and two, be not being able to help."