Matt Barnes is playing in the Conference Finals for the first time in his career. He’s been defending one of the best shooters in the history of the league in Boston Celtics Guad Ray Allen. Chasing Allen around screens is difficult enough, but he’s also had to guard one of the best players of the last 10 years in Celtics Forward Paul Pierce. All well trying to help his teammates get going on offense against a dominating Boston defense.
That should be more than enough for one player to attempt to handle.
But it gets even more complicated for Barnes.
Since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, Barnes has suffered from back spasms. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, Barnes was limited to just 16 minutes and wasn’t very productive. In Game 2, Barnes showed some improvement and played 21 minutes. He was more active – he scored 6 points and grabbed 7 rebounds – and did a pretty good job against Paul Pierce in the second half. After Pierce dropped 22 first half points on the Magic, he scored just 6 in the second half (Dwight Howard’s foul had a lot to do with that too but that’s a different story). Throughout the game, Barnes could still be seen trying to walk off pain while wearing a back brace when he was out of the game.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Barnes is now having trouble with some of the women from VH1’s Basketball Wives. Barnes’ fiancée, Gloria Gavon, is on the show and some her fellow cast-members have been trying to cause problems for Barnes. He replied to some of their accusations through his twitter account today:
I kno 1 of u bitter ass *itches from the show put that old pic on mediatake. Dont matter me & G r still good & will always b. Keep haten lol
U can tell the pics old NO neck tats No hand tats. Keep chasen them DREAMS or the MONEY!!!! Lol. I’m gone. It aint over ORLANDO STAND UP!!!!
Sounds like some of the women are putting Barnes in a difficult situation by constantly claiming that all basketball players cheat. Of course, there’s the possibility that Barnes is just trying to help get more viewers for his fiancé’s show but after listening to Barnes’ comments about Basketball Wives on the Jim Rome Show, among other places, he is not a fan of the show or the women who appear on the show outside of Gloria.
Even with all of these distractions, Barnes has shown nothing but a strong desire to bring a championship to Orlando even if that means having to switch his focus completely to Paul Pierce.
John Denton has quotes from Barnes on Thursday where he expressed his desire to cover Pierce.
“I’d love to guard (Paul) Pierce,’’ Barnes said of the matchup that he’s hopeful for on Saturday. “I got the chance to guard him a little bit the last game and felt that I did a pretty good job. But he’s really rolling right now. So we need to slow him down somehow.’’
You have to love Barnes’ fire and willingness to do whatever it takes for his team to be successful but what does this mean for the rest of the team?
The Magic have undoubtedly been a better team with J.J. Redick on the floor in this series. He has been very aggressive offensively and for the second consecutive postseason, he’s done a good job of chasing Allen through screens, but Redick has often come in for Barnes, shifting Vince Carter to Barnes’ Small Forward position, leaving Barnes on the bench.
With Orlando’s struggles on offense, they can’t afford to take Carter out of the game for long periods of time, which leaves Carter to guard Pierce when he is the game with Redick. Before the series, Carter had been assigned to Pierce while Barnes was the one who would have to chase Ray Allen all over the court. Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy does not plan on changing the starting lineup and statistics show that Barnes is probably better suited to cover Allen than Pierce in comparison with Carter, who is better suited to cover Pierce.
It’s going to be up to Van Gundy to find a way to get Redick enough minutes while giving Barnes enough burn on Pierce and keeping Carter on the floor.
The question is, how?
At least we know one thing; Barnes is up for the challenge.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and on Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).