Lakers forward Matt Barnes reacts after falling to the court and injuring… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Reserve forward Matt Barnes will miss several weeks because of torn cartilage in his right knee, meaning Kobe Bryant will probably log more minutes as the Lakers absorb yet another knee injury.
An MRI exam Saturday confirmed that Barnes sustained a torn lateral meniscus, though the Lakers declined to release a timetable for his return until after he has surgery in the next few days.
"We're going to lose speed and quickness at that position," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
Former Lakers guard Jordan Farmar missed five weeks during the 2008-09 season because of a similar injury.
Bryant said he expected to add more minutes and shift more often from shooting guard to small forward. Luke Walton also will get more playing time, Jackson said, and the Lakers will recall rookie small forward Devin Ebanks from the Bakersfield Jam of the Development League.
Barnes was injured when he landed off-balance while pursuing a rebound Friday against New Orleans. As he limped out of the locker room after the game, he said he feared cartilage damage.
Barnes, averaging 7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in his first season with the Lakers, was not available for comment Saturday.
"It affects the depth of our rotation," said Bryant, who offered a quick answer when asked whether he was worried about playing more minutes. "Nah."
Bryant is averaging 33.1 minutes a game, down from 38.8 last season.
Barnes didn't always make an impact on the stat sheet, but the Lakers liked his speed and feistiness on defense. His best game on offense was a memorable one in November — 24 points against Minnesota on seven-for-seven shooting, including five for five from three-point range.
Walton hasn't been a factor this season, averaging 1.6 points and 7.1 minutes a game. Ebanks averaged 14.6 points in five games with the Jam, but only 2.9 points and 6.4 minutes in 12 appearances with the Lakers.
On a roll . . . maybe
Was it the start of something? Or just a friendly schedule?
Bryant had expressed anger in recent weeks with the team's play but seemed pleased with the Lakers' recent 5-1 run.
"I think it's more of us changing our attitude. . . . I think the biggest adjustment has been how we decided to play," he said. "I feel like we're playing hard. That's the biggest thing. We're playing with a little bit more intensity."
The Lakers twice beat the slumping Hornets (21-16) in their mini-run, along with Phoenix (14-20), Detroit (11-24) and Philadelphia (15-21). Not exactly a string of championship contenders.
"I don't see a big turnaround," said Ron Artest, who still seemed irritated that the Lakers struggled last month. "You can choose to not have those [bad] stretches, especially with a team like this."
Jackson, however, seemed buoyed by the recent play of the Lakers' big men, specifically Andrew Bynum.
"We played guys long minutes [before Bynum's return], extended minutes, and Lamar [Odom] and Pau Gasol, it kind of wore them down and we kind of suffered the effects of that," he said. "But now we're starting to get some legs back in our game and we're starting to play better."
Steve Blake left Friday's game because of a sprained left ankle but was wearing a practice jersey Saturday morning and did not appear to have any lingering effects.
Blake was hurt when he missed a layup on a fastbreak in the third quarter against New Orleans.
New York Knicks forward-center Amare Stoudemire has heard plenty of M-V-P chants from Knicks fans at Madison Square Garden.
In fact, Bryant complimented Stoudemire and how he has revitalized the Knicks (21-14), who play the Lakers at Staples Center on Sunday.
But Bryant also laughed at the premise of such home-friendly cheers.
"They chant M-V-P at home crowds for anybody," Bryant said. "They chanted M-V-P for Earl Boykins in Milwaukee."