Despite nursing a sprained right ankle he describes as still sore, Lakers forward Matt Barnes will play Sunday in Game 1 of the Lakers-Nuggets first-round series.
"I'm going to play no matter what," Barnes said Saturday at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. "I don't think anyone is 100% at this point. I'll just try to stay warm when I'm out of the game and hopefully I'll be effective."
Barnes' health is an added concern at a small forward spot that is in flux. Lakers forward Metta World Peace will serve a six-game suspension after throwing an elbow last week at Oklahoma City guard James Harden. Meanwhile, the Lakers hope Devin Ebanks' ability to step in during Kobe Bryant's seven-game absence because of a sore left shin and Ebanks' surprisingly effective defense last week against Thunder forward Kevin Durant could translate as the starting small forward against the Nuggets.
As for Barnes, he enters the postseason as the team's backup small forward fresh off an injury for the second consecutive season. That's a concern if the injury hinders his bench-leading 7.8 points on 45.2% shooting, 5.5 rebounds, intense defense and efficient cutting. After returning last season from surgery on his right knee that sidelined him for 26 consecutive games, Barnes appeared tentative on the court. His 6.7 points per game on 47% shooting and 4.3 rebounds in 19.2 minutes during the regular season dipped to 3.6 points per game on 37% shooting and 2.8 rebounds in 13.1 minutes in the postseason.
Although he acknowledged pain his his ankle everytime he's "moving," Barnes noted the severity of his ankle injury hardly compares to that lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.He sat out of the Lakers' season-finale Thursday at Sacramento and out of Saturday's practice. But he spent a 20-minute workout with Lakers development coach Phil Handy, performing running, shooting, defensive slides and jumping exercises. That happened only six days after spraining his ankle. He's receiving unspecified "constant treatment." And Barnes said he believes he won't feel any limitations in about a week.
"This is not as bad," Barnes said. "Last year, I couldn't really move with my knee. This year, hopefully -- knock on wood -- game by game and day by day I'll get better."