Monday's practice was a positive one for the Lakers on a few levels, but perhaps most importantly because it saw the return of Matt Barnes, who has missed the last 20 games following surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee.
Barnes participated in the non-contact portions of today's workout, and deemed it a success. All the salient details are contained here, in this handy news story.
In terms of a timetable for returning to game action, Barnes said he'll need three full practices before he's ready. Looking at the schedule, the Lakers play tomorrow at home against Atlanta then Wednesday night in Portland. It's unlikely they'll practice Thursday afternoon ahead of Friday's game against the Clippers. Assuming Phil Jackson has them on the court Saturday and again Monday (after Sunday's tilt vs. OKC), the third practice would have to wait until after next Tuesday's game against Minnesota.
If that's the case, for the sake of spitballing, it would be reasonable to look for Barnes in uniform a week from Friday at home against Charlotte. The Lakers have jimmied with these sorts of things before (Andrew Bynum, for example, was moved back into the starting lineup faster than expected), but won't risk a setback for Barnes. At this point, his presence is far too valuable.
Better to wait the extra game than rush him back. However it's sliced and diced- perhaps a bad metaphor referencing a guy coming off surgery- the news is positive for the Lakers. Given the inconsistencies of Ron Artest as the starting small forward and the second unit generally over the last few weeks, Barnes' ability to defend multiple positions, create second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass, and general tendency to cut to the paint is sorely needed.