CLIPPERS ADD TOUGH-MINDED DEFENDER IN BARNES
The Clippers lineup keeps getting deeper.
In an offseason that’s included adding six new players, re-signing Chauncey Billups, and extending superstar Blake Griffin, the Clippers Friday continued building a talented bench, agreeing to terms with free agent forward Matt Barnes.
“We’re happy to be able to add another veteran player like Matt to our team,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He’s a very competitive and aggressive defender who will give us more depth overall, but especially on the defensive side of the floor.”
The 32-year-old Barnes joins Lamar Odom as another former Clipper returning to Los Angeles this offseason. Barnes started his career with the Clippers in 2003 following four years at UCLA, and has suited up for eight teams in his nine NBA seasons. For the last two, he was a member of Lakers, including 63 games (16 starts) last season, averaging 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in 22.9 minutes.
More than one-third of his field goal attempts since 2007 have come from behind the 3-point line, where he shot 32.9% in that span, but the Clippers are not acquiring Barnes to be a deep threat. He’ll be asked to do what he’s done his entire career: play with energy and intensity on the defensive end of the floor.
He’s 6-foot-7 with long arms, making him a more ideal defensive option against small forwards like Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony. In a way, he could be a guy the opposition isn’t fond of, but his teammates love. He’s had run-ins with everyone from Kobe Bryant (as a member of the Magic) to Blake Griffin (during the preseason last year). And while Barnes comes across as a bit of an agitator, he’s also been a key role player on playoff teams for three consecutive years.
In all, he’s appeared in 46 career postseason games, including 14 as a starter with the Magic in 2009-10. Perhaps his best stretch came three years earlier when he scored 11.1 points per game, was disruptive on the perimeter, and proved to be a definitive member of a surprising and flamboyant Warriors team that upset the top-seeded Mavericks.
Last season, Barnes’ minutes dwindled down the stretch and into the playoffs, due in large part to lingering ankle and neck injuries that forced him to miss three games and limited him in several more.
For the Clippers, Barnes will likely serve as a versatile reserve behind starter Caron Butler and free-agent acquisition Grant Hill at small forward. Because of his height and rebounding ability (fourth among players at his position in rebounding rate last year), he could also be used sparingly at the 4-spot behind Griffin and Odom.