NBA Saturday: Matt Barnes Returns to Action
Matt Barnes was nervous in the days leading up to his game in the San Francisco Pro-Am League. It was the first time that Barnes had played in an actual game since the Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in May, and he was curious to see how his surgically-repaired right knee would hold up.
Last Thursday, Barnes took the floor and didn’t encounter a single problem. He scored 28 points and played the majority of the game, which went into overtime. He didn’t experience any pain on the court or in the days that followed, and he’s looking forward to playing two more games next week.
“It felt good,” Barnes told HOOPSWORLD. “That was the first time I had played since we got beat by Dallas. But even then, in the playoffs, my injury was lingering and I didn’t really play much. It was really the first time in a long time that I’ve been able to go out there, be pain free and not limited. There were times where I felt like I didn’t have my legs, but that’s just from not running for so long. There was definitely no pain.”
That’s a step in the right direction for Barnes, who spent the first half of his summer rehabbing his knee. He continues to see his physical therapist twice a week, but will be completely healthy by the time the season is scheduled to start in October.
“After the season, I shut it down for about ten weeks,” Barnes said. “I let all of the swelling go down and let all of the pain go away. Since that point, we’ve been strengthening it and rehabbing it so that I could get my mobility and side-to-side movement back. Everything went well. I’ll be 100 percent by the time the season starts. I’ll have no limitations holding me back going into the season.”
Barnes can’t wait to put his injuries behind him and become a significant contributor for the Lakers. New head coach Mike Brown is known for his defensive strategies, which means that Barnes’ stifling perimeter defense should be valued more than ever. Prior to the lockout, Brown sent each player game film of the defensive schemes he’ll implement next season, and Barnes has already started to break it down.
“I’m learning the new defensive schemes. They sent tape of the schemes out before the lockout, and I’ve already started taking a look at those. He couldn’t really do too much because he was hired a few weeks before the lockout, but he sent the defensive tape to everyone and just let them know to look over it. When this thing ends, we’ll be able to get to work,” Barnes said.
If the lockout lasts until October and pushes back training camp, the Lakers will likely plan team workouts to keep everyone in shape and on the same page. After how last season ended, the group is motivated to right the ship and prove that they’re still one of the best teams in the NBA.
“I think it’s going to be a big year for our team,” Barnes said. “Everyone is really eager to get back to work. The way we got beat, the way we got embarrassed, that’s been a driving force behind everyone’s work ethic this summer. It’s going to be an interesting, fun and exciting year.”
As far as the rumors about the Lakers being divided and having off-court issues, Barnes believes it was blown out of proportion and doesn’t see it being an issue going forward.
“I think that’s the media doing what they do,” Barnes explained. “There’s no bigger name in sports than the Lakers. When you consider everything we had riding on last season with it being Phil’s last year, the team going for a three-peat, the new guys trying to get their first ring and then all of the injuries on top of that, there was a lot of stuff going on last year. Then, you start hearing the rumors that there’s ‘internal beef’ and all that kind of stuff. It’s one of those things where the guys who have played in L.A. for awhile are used to it and know that you have to have thick skin. Now, it’s just about us getting back out there and getting back to work. I’m not taking anything away from Dallas because they really handed it to us, but we’ll be ready next year.”
Getting ready for next season is Barnes’ main focus this summer. Unlike other players who are considering offers overseas, Barnes will remain in Los Angeles. The only way he would consider playing abroad is if the season is canceled entirely.
“At this point, it’s not something we’ve talked about too in-depth,” Barnes said. “Early on in this process, my agent and I spoke and I told him that my goal was to get back and work on my game to make sure that I’m 100 percent healthy and ready for next season. That’s really my focus right now. If we’re locked out the whole year and there’s no season, then I may take a look at going but until that happens, and I hope it doesn’t, I’m going to be here.”
With his injury behind him, Barnes is working hard and getting back in game shape. That’s excellent news for the Lakers, but bad news for every opposing team in the San Francisco Pro-Am League.
Hobson Hopes to Re-Sign With Bucks: After undergoing two hip surgeries last year, Darington Hobson is nearly finished with his rehab and ready to return to the court. While he hasn’t been able to resume basketball activities just yet, he has been able to put up shots and strengthen his hips.
“Right now, I’m just getting shots up,” Hobson told HOOPSWORLD. “It feels better, but there’s still a little bit of soreness. The doctor said that’s expected and that I should be close to 100 percent by the end of August. By October, I should be able to play full speed.”
Hobson is on pace with his original diagnosis and is looking forward to being completely healthy. What most people don’t know is that this will be the first time in years that Hobson has been 100 percent healthy. He played through the hip and groin pain during college and the draft process, which not only makes his accomplishments even more impressive, but also suggests that the best is yet to come for last year’s 37th overall pick.
“This will be my first time playing at 100 percent in a long time, probably since my senior year in high school,” Hobson said. “I’m excited to see what it will feel like. I can’t wait. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to play pain free.”
In high school, Hobson’s vertical leap was 39 inches, but as his hips worsened, so did his athleticism. At last year’s draft combine, his vertical was measured at 34 inches. Hobson was disappointed that he had lost five inches off his maximum vertical in just three years, but soon learned that his lingering injury was the reason behind his gradual decline.
“I was limited in certain aspects of my game, especially in my athletic ability and flexibility,” Hobson said. “Now, that won’t be the case and all of my muscle groups will be able to work together. I should be a more explosive and athletic player, which were some of the things that were supposed to be my weaknesses coming out of college. I’ll finally be able to get back to 100 percent and have everything working right.”
Even after the Bucks waived him in December, Hobson remained in Milwaukee to complete his rehab with the familiar medical staff. He was also receiving guidance from his former teammate Keyon Dooling, who underwent the same procedure in the summer of 2009.
“It was a blessing,” Hobson said. “He went through the exact same thing. He gave me the ins and outs of what was going to happen, what the surgery would be like and what it was going to feel like afterward. Keyon has always been a big brother to me. He’s been my NBA vet and looked out for me. Everything that he told me was going to happen happened just like he said. I haven’t had any surprises when it comes to the pain or rehab because of him. It was big to have Keyon on the same team as me because he was able to walk me through the process.”
Now, Hobson is an unrestricted free agent, but hopes to re-sign with the Bucks once the lockout comes to an end.
“They’ve shown me a lot of loyalty and have a lot of faith in me and my abilities,” Hobson said. “That’s the place I want to be. If it all turns out right, hopefully I’ll be here. At the end of the day, I don’t think Milwaukee would have drafted someone that they didn’t want. My job right now is to get completely healthy so that when training camp does start, I’ll be ready to come in and compete for a job.”
Hobson couldn’t be more excited to take the floor and start playing in full speed games. Hobson was diagnosed last August, and had to go a complete year without playing basketball, which is something he never wants to do again.
“I learned how much I love basketball and how much I need it in my life,” Hobson said. “I don’t know what I’d do without it. The last time I went a year without picking up a basketball was when I was about four or five years old, and that was before I knew it was something I loved. This is the first time I’ve had to stay away from the game for this long.”
With only two months of rehab remaining, Hobson should be able to put his injuries behind him and start his career soon. Whether or not he’ll do so in Milwaukee remains to be seen, but that’s certainly his preference.
Overseas News and Notes: Here are the latest news and notes regarding players heading overseas.
• Aaron Brooks is considering an offer from a team in China, according to sources close to the situation. Brooks has made it clear that he’s open to playing overseas during the lockout. He is extremely popular in China, in large part because of his success with the Houston Rockets. Brooks has a number of endorsements with Chinese companies and has made several trips to East Asia in recent summers.
• Von Wafer is considering offers from teams in China, Italy and Turkey. The unrestricted free agent is open to signing overseas and continues to weigh his options.
• Many international teams have expressed interest in Los Angeles Lakers rookie Andrew Goudelock, but he likely won’t sign overseas unless a deal includes a NBA-out. He’s looking forward to starting his career with the Lakers and wants to be able to play in Los Angeles as soon as the season starts.
• Undrafted free agent Xavier Silas has received several offers from international teams, but he likely won’t sign abroad. He’ll wait out the work stoppage and then attend the Philadelphia 76ers’ training camp whenever the lockout ends.
• Acie Law has signed a one-year deal with the Serbian club Partizan Belgrade. Law’s deal does not include a NBA-out, which means he’ll stay in Serbia for the duration of the season, even if a new collective bargaining agreement is ratified.
• Keyon Dooling is on the verge of signing a one-year contract with the Turkish club Anadolu Efes, and his deal will not include a NBA-out. As vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, Dooling will be the first union representative to sign overseas. He will be relieved of his duties upon signing, and the NBPA will likely find a replacement.