Lakers forward Matt Barnes said he won't style his hair into a mohawk… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Usually, Matt Barnes hears a buzz heading into the NBA playoffs. We're not just talking about the increased excitement level as fans proudly wave their Lakers flags. We're not referring to celebrities sitting courtside who pay more attention to the game than their text messages. We're not just seeing the Lakers suddenly take games more seriously.
Barnes usually hears the buzz of hair clippers shortly before the postseason so he could wear a mohawk in honor of his mother, Ann, who died in 2007 of lung cancer. But Barnes told The Times he won't continue that tradition this year.
"I don't want any distractions," said Barnes, who averages 7.8 points on 45.2% shooting, 5.5 rebounds and admits his sprained right ankle is still sore. "I just want to go out here and play basketball."
In 2007, Barnes played for the Golden State Warriors and boldly stated he'd style his hair into a mohawk should they make the playoffs. As the Warriors earned a spot as the Western Conference's eight-seeded team and upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, Barnes said his mother loved seeing him sport the mohawk. Once she passed away seven months later, Barnes made the haircut a playoff ritual in her honor.
I spent time at his Palos Verdes home last year on the eve of the playoffs when his friend, Demorea "Truck" Evans, cut his hair. With Evans losing his mom, Jean George, to breast cancer in 2005, the ritutal proved therapuetic for both. Barnes occassionally teared up when he looked at a red bracelet around his right wrist, which featured "Ann" written in white between two hearts.
That inspiration hardly translated on the court.
After returning last season from surgery on his right knee that sidelined him for 26 consecutive games, Barnes appeared tentative on the court. His averages of 6.7 points on 47% shooting, 4.3 rebounds and 19.2 minutes during the regular season dipped to 3.6 points on 37% shooting, 2.8 rebounds and 13.1 minutes in the postseason. In turn, the Lakers fell in a four-game sweep in the Western Conference semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks.
Still, that sting hardly compares to the painful feeling he has over missing his mother.
Said Barnes: "She'll always be on my mind."
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