After the game, Kobe Bryant addressed the media with a single answer about having a rival: “I didn’t have one.” The only question I couldn’t help but ask was:
Why isn’t Matt Barnes in the starting lineup?
While most times the best player is the starter, this isn’t the case.
Why? Its simple, have you seen the Lakers coaching staff? Their leader alone doesn’t even seem to know what he is doing.
If you disagree, let me just say this is the same guy who at the beginning of the season started Devin Ebanks in front of MWP and Barnes. That’s right—he started a second-year player over not one but two proven veteran players.
I remember watching the first game of the season and seeing Ebanks as the starter. I thought to myself, “Wow this kid really was nonexistent his rookie year, did he really impress the coaches that much?” This thought was the first time I gave Mike Brown the benefit of the doubt, and clearly he didn’t make me look good. Not only is Ebanks not starting anymore, he isn’t even the backup, and sweats more watching the game than he does playing it.
What I can't seem to understand is why defense is clearly more important to a coach who has a team filled with offensively talented players. Which begs the question, why was a culture change needed?
The other night against Minnesota, Rick Adelman was sitting on the wrong bench. For Minnesota, he has already proved his worth as a good coach and leader by matching last year's number of wins at the halfway point this year. If that wasn’t impressive enough, remember it’s a shortened season, and he didn’t have a training camp. I don’t think I have ever envied Minnesota more than I do now, for the simple fact they have a great head coach and more importantly his players buy into what he is selling.
Last year, while Barnes nursed an ailing knee injury, it was easy to see why Lamar Odom was the No. 1 guy off the bench contending for a starting job. This year, I just don’t get it. Across the board, Barnes is playing at higher level than World Peace is, and he is doing it in fewer minutes.
I cannot trust what Brown is doing, nor do I feel he can be a successful head coach in the NBA. His decisions are completely absurd and the Lakers offense has definitely improved since he has stopped “yelling” out offensive sets.
Barnes is averaging 21.5 MPG, .440 FG%, .283 3P%, .776 FT%, 4.80 RPG and the most impressive stat, 7.1 PPG.
Meanwhile, World Peace's averages are 23.1 MPG, .349 FG%, .244 3P%, .558 FT%, 2.80 RPG and a dismal 5.3 PPG.
How can World Peace play nearly two more minutes a night and have worse stats than Barnes? “Stat Guy” himself said, “If I was a stat guy, MWP wouldn’t be playing.” So my question is why aren’t you being a stat guy? That isn’t such a negative moniker, especially when it means the difference of putting the best five players on the floor versus placating a defensive player.
What's even more confusing is that Barnes can play both defense and offense, as you can see the noticeable difference in FG% and PPG averages.
Now, the above mentioned are just hard stats, which clearly should be enough to argue tha Barnes is the better player. But unless you watch the games, you won't see the intangibles, like how hard Barnes hustles, and more importantly how he has become the Lakers' very own energy boost when intensity seems to fade.
Friday night, Barnes' performance screamed starter. He played 16 minutes, went 4-of-9 from the field— more notably going 2-of-3 from the perimeter—and finished the night with 10 points. World Peace, meanwhile, played double the minutes at 32, went 5-of-11—which included shooting a dismal 2-for-6 from the perimeter—finishing the night with 15 points.
Why isn’t World Peace scoring more? It's simple: he isn’t playing to his strengths. World Peace is a glorified “camper,” except instead of camping in the low post, he has decided to do his camping behind the three-point line. Ron Artest was never a great three-point shooter, and World Peace is even worse.
Don’t get me wrong; I am pro World Peace. But I am also pro winning games. Production is worth more than anyone player on the team, and when it comes to the small forward position in the starting lineup, hands down Barnes is the best man for the job.
If there were ever a time to live up to a nickname, good or bad, now would be that time for Brown.