Matt Barnes: Was His Pro-Am Sucker Punch a Show of Toughness or Immaturity?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IAugust 6, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 20:  Matt Barnes #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in the first quarter while taking on the New Orleans Hornets in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 20, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes was recently video-taped punching a rival player in the face during a summer league pro-am game, which only adds to the growing list of incidents that have kept Barnes' name in the news for reasons other than basketball.

If you don't remember, Barnes was arrested for domestic violence in September while he was recovering from a knee injury, then he was suspended by the NBA in April for shoving a Dallas Mavericks assistant coach to the floor.

Most Lakers fans love the energy and intensity Barnes brings to the team whenever he is in the game, and the Dallas incident can even be forgiven since it resulted from defending a teammate.

However, it's a little harder to excuse Barnes for his earlier indiscretions, especially when you consider that both are of a criminal nature.

I'm not sure why Barnes was arrested for domestic violence in Sacramento, but the charge suggests that he threatened someone in a physically intimidating manner.

What Barnes did in the Bay Area summer league game was flat-out assault, and amazingly officials didn't see it so Barnes was not penalized, and he even went on to eventually hit the game winning shot. reported that when Barnes was questioned about his punch to an opponent's face, his response was that there is only so much a person can take before they react to their emotions.

I can agree with Barnes when he says that everyone has a breaking point, but what separates Barnes from most adults in society is how we choose to react once we reach that critical juncture.

In fact it's plausible to say that same logic is a good way of distinguishing a child from an adult, because in most cases a child is more likely to respond to their emotions with violence.

Hours before Barnes' incident Minnesota Timber Wolves forward Michael Beasley also let his emotions get the better of him when he pushed a heckling fan in the face during a New York City summer league game.

But, at least Beasley had the decency to apologize to the fan later on, while Barnes only offered shallow, unapologetic excuses for his own behavior.

Barnes even cited his own manhood when talking about why he punched his opponent in the face, but is that really how mature men are supposed to act in the face of a little pressure?

Maybe in Barnes' own mind he is simply living up to the tough guy reputation that he has earned through his relentless play on the court, and his willingness to accept any defensive challenge.

But Barnes' actions on Friday had nothing to do with toughness and everything to do with immaturity and the inability to control one's own emotions.

So far the Lakers have not commented on Barnes latest physical outburst, and the incident is likely to fade into oblivion, until it happens again of course.

Barnes may not have enough evidence built up against him to suggest he has a serious problem, but he has established a pattern of reacting to situations with violence and aggression instead of acting like a rational adult.

If Barnes is healthy, he could play a major role in new coach Mike Brown's schemes since his athleticism and energy fits right in with Brown's plans to increase the Lakers' pace and tempo.

I'm sure Barnes will approach the season with urgency when and if the NBA's work stoppage ends since he is entering the final year of his contract with the Lakers and looking to make an impression on possible free agency suitors.

But Barnes could increase his value to the Lakers, the NBA and society as a whole by recognizing that he may have an anger management problem, and then take the necessary steps to correct it.