Matt Barnes cleared to return

Updated: April 28, 2012, 7:57 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers will be without their starting small forward Sunday when they open the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, but they will have their backup.

Matt Barnes, who missed the Lakers regular-season finale on Thursday after suffering a moderately sprained right ankle last week against Oklahoma City, has been cleared to return to the lineup, Lakers coach Mike Brown said Saturday.

"I'm going to play," Barnes said. "I'm going to play no matter what. I don't think anyone is 100 percent at this point, so I'm just going to try to stay warm when I'm out of the game and hopefully I'll be effective when I'm in."

Barnes did not participate in practice on Saturday with the team but underwent an individual workout with Lakers player development coach Phil Handy, going through defensive slides, shooting, running and jumping exercises.

Barnes said his ankle was still sore after the workout, but said he would continue the "constant treatment" he's undergone since hurting his ankle in the Lakers' 114-106 double-overtime win against the Thunder last Sunday.

"I'm doing everything you can for an ankle," Barnes said. "Game by game and day by day, I'll get better and probably won't be limited within a week or so."

Barnes was the Lakers' leading scorer off the bench this season and averaged 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists overall. He had picked up his play of late, averaging 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in 13 games in April.

Brown said he will start Devin Ebanks in Metta World Peace's place, however, to keep his substitution rotation in order.

"Obviously, would we want Metta to be able to play and start? Yeah. But Devin's started for us before and we know we have an experienced guy in Matt Barnes sitting there too and then if we need to, we can slide Kobe (Bryant) over to the small forward also," Brown said.

Brown said there would be no minute restrictions on Barnes.

"The only thing we can do is play by now," Barnes said. "It's the playoffs so there's no excuses. There's no nothing. Ron (World Peace) is out for the first round. I'm a little hurt. People are a little banged up, but there's no excuses. We got to go out there and play and I think people are all on the same page."

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