Never accuse Matt Barnes of being afraid to churn the rumor mill. In addition to Derek Fisher and Darius Morris (who appeared later on the PodKast), Barnes dropped by the El Segundo facility on Friday to get some work in. With the media already on hand to hear comments from Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown, Barnes also found himself surrounded by mics and cameras. He provided an update on his knee ("98 percent"), plus some thoughts on learning a new system this season. Barnes doesn't think it'll be particularly complicated because, at the end of the day, everyone knows whatever the offense looks like, it will be run through Kobe Bryant.
Eyebrows were raised, however, when Barnes was asked about the swirl of trade and free agency reports now in full swing. As a rule of thumb, he doesn't pay attention to the gossip unless it pertains to his team. Or, as it turns out, unless it involves ex-teammates/current friends linked to his team. Which brings us of course to Barnes' one-time Orlando center Dwight Howard.
Turns out, Barnes buys the chatter about Howard's desire to don purple and gold, because he's heard the same from a pretty reliable source: Dwight Howard.
"You know, I've been hearing [rumors about] Dwight," acknowledged Barnes. "I've been hearing [rumors about] Baron [Davis in the event of getting amnestied]. I've been hearing stuff a lot lately. I've talked to both of those guys and they wanna be here, so we'll see what happens.
To quote Ace Ventura, "Reh-heh-heh-heally?"
Ever the salesman, Barnes talked up to Howard and Davis what it's like being part of this franchise. "A dream," he gushed when I asked how he describes playing here. "On the court. To be a Laker, there's nothing like it, to play in L.A. And to be ready to get a ring if you come here."
Barnes admitted pitching the Lakers to outsiders can be tough, since he's also tight with the guys who'd theoretically move in the event of a trade. But at the same time, as a guy who's played on eight teams in eight seasons, he knows rosters are always on the verge of getting flipped. Barnes is nothing if not down for the dudes currently in his locker room, but perspective must also be maintained.
"It's tough, because I have my teammates that I have a bond with now, but I think I know better than anybody this is a business," explained Barnes. "Everybody knows that now, from what we just went through. Friendships are always good, but you have to understand, you can't put your heart into these trades and cuts and acquisitions, because we have no control over them."
In any event, if Howard actually wants to be a Laker that wish doesn't in turn become guaranteed, but the odds are certainly increased. Particularly if a G.M. shares my opinion about the protocol for trading a superstar. Generally speaking, if a team knows its franchise player isn't long for the franchise, you're better off trading him earlier rather than later. It's beginning to look like Otis Smith is seeing the writing on the wall. Even if Howard doesn't end up a Laker, it's becoming harder to picture him a Magician considerably longer.