Barnes: “What You Say Nellie?”

That’s how you answer the bell, Matt Barnes.
Check out his stat line from Wednesday night: 14 points, 10 rebounds, a steal, and a block in 23 minutes.
He was all over the floor. He did a little bit of everything. He showed he’s got some fight. Even Nellie had to bow down.
“Matt was terrific,” Nellie said after the game. “I got his attention. He actually guarded some people. He got a block. I thought it was good. We talked and we laughed about it, too. … He played a terrific game and he was one of the reasons we won.”
Of course, Barnes could be just raising his value for the Warriors to ship him. He said he wants to stay, and he knows he fits this system.
But should the Warriors keep him or use his success to get something else they need? What do you think?


Nellie Calling Out Barnes

The arrival of Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson already cut into Matt Barnes minutes. Now, Kelenna Azubuike might be doing so as well.
Nellie said before Wednesday’s game that Barnes wasn’t sucking on defense too much to get some playing time.
To play, Nellis said Barnes needs to “guard people, keep people in front of him, not be a sieve on defense.”
Remember, the last time Nellie started ripping cats, they got shipped to Indiana.
Since Barnes isn’t needed to score, as he was when the Warriors were injury depleted, his way to earn minutes is being a defensive stopper and rebounding. But Nellie said Barnes gets some of the lowest marks on defense and is falling back into bad habits.
Nellie said Azubuike, who can play the same position as Barnes, is a better defender (which is why Barnes sat the entire Laker game and Azubuike got a shot at defending Kobe). Even worse, Nellie said Azubuike, a rookie, is about even with Barnes as far as what they can contribute and that the only reason Barnes will get the call off the bench first (for now) is because he’s more experienced.
Seems like a pretty far fall from grace for a player who saved the Warriors through some dire times.
Barnes play earlier this season may have made him just valuable enough to trade. If they like Azubuike more, Barnes becomes expendable, especially because he would cost more. But if he plays defense like he did in the second quarter Wednesday — five rebounds, a couple blocks, a strip — he will certainly work his way back into the regular rotation.


Lakers Could Win it All

I hate to say it, but they really could. They probably won’t, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they did. Honestly, I never even thought about the Lakers as a serious contender until Baron’s agent, Todd Ramasar, made the case to me at a shootaround recently. Monday’s game only supported his stance. All they did was just enough to keep it close, then Kobe took over.
Now I’m an admitted Laker hater (Kobe lover, Laker hater — Is that legal?). They’re not like other one-man squads, such as Cleveland or Minnesota or Denver pre-Iverson. The Lakers have a pretty complete squad and Phil Jackson has everyone playing their part.
They’ve got shooters (they’re the second-best in the league in field goal percentage), they’ve got rebounders, they’ve got defenders, they’ve got energy guys, they’ve got a bench. Most important, they’ve got Kobe.
Bynum is a servicable big man at this point and only getting better. Turiaf and Evans are great hustle players off the bench, and Evans’ mid-range is money. Cook stretches the defense. Walton and a healthy Odom gives them versatility. Whatever they get from Kwame, Smush and Farmer is bonus.
Kobe finishes.
All they have to do is stay close and give the ball to Kobe at the end. Not only is he spectacular, but he’s going to get all the calls. And his unselfish play has given his teammates confidence they don’t deserve. They’ll make teams pay now for doubling Kobe.
They’re just like Jordan’s Bulls. They have to tools to knock off Phoenix or Dallas in the West Finals. All they need is to keep a high seed, because they probably can’t get through Phoenix and Dallas. Once they get to the Finals, it’s wide open.
I hate to say it, but the Lakers are a good run away from taking it.


Active Defense

One thing that stands out about the new-look Warriors is their activity on defense. Certainly, a lot of it has to do with the emotion from a new trade. But along with the intensity and energy on defense, the length and quickness is noticeable. As Bob Fitzgerald pointed out on the broadcast, the Warriors had more deflections against Cleveland than in any other game this season. Because of Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson’s length and burst, they cover more ground and are better defenders by default.
In the first quarter, Harrington reached around and ripped Luke Walton on the baseline. That’s just pure length and quick hands.
The Warriors forced 13 turnovers, and got 16 points off those turnovers, in the first 16 minutes of the game.
With Baron playing the role of the gnat, sneaking around getting in the way all over the court (as he has been all season), and Pietrus being able to defend on the ball, the Warriors defense is clearly improved.
Now, you won’t see it in field goal percentage and points allowed, but in turnovers created. That’s what the Warriors need to get the break going. If they can defensive rebound better, they will be even more potent.


Gasol to Bulls?

There are reports that Chicago and Memphis have talked about a trade involving Pau Gasol. Rarely are trades good for both teams, but this would be one of them.
You can’t win in the West playing halfcourt ball unless you have Tim Duncan. And even the Spurs have been trying to be more uptempo, more high octane, by adding athletes like Francisco Elsen and Fabricio Oberto to go with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
So, the Grizzlies — who have a few promising athletes — are better off without Gasol, especially if they can land Luol Deng and/or Kirk Hinrich and/or Ben Gordon in return. Add a star like Vince Carter this offseason, and they’ll be pretty good.
The Bulls can use Gasol, on the other hand. The East is slower and more structured. Put Gasol next to Ben Wallace, Tyrus Thomas and Andres Nocioni. That’s a front line that can make some noise in the East. They’d have defense and offense and would be an even stronger force in the Central Division.


Yao Out of All-Star Game

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming will not play in the All-Star Game on Feb. 18 in Las Vegas.
Yao broke his right leg on December 23 and was expected to be out at least six weeks. Feb. 17 will make eight weeks since the injury, but a source close to Yao confirmed he still won’t be ready by then and has been ruled out of the All-Star Game.
Yao was the leading vote-getter after the fourth and final ballot returns, just a thousand-plus more votes than LeBron James. The balloting ended Sunday, and though Yao is hurt, he will be named the starting Western Conference center on Jan. 25, when All-Star starters are announced. Commissioner David Stern chooses injury replacements after the reserves (selected by the coaches) are announced on Feb. 1.
Who will Stern choose? Better question. Who should he choose?
It depends on who is left off after the starters and reserves are determined. But the decision shouldn’t be difficult, at least if you ask me.
If, somehow, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony (who was fourth in the voting among West forwards) doesn’t get voted in by the coaches, he’s the choice.
No question.
Not even open for debate.
Seriously. Stop thinking about it.
Chances are, Anthony will be voted in by the very coaches he’s tormented, especially if he comes back dominating. Not even the Brawl II should prevent it. So, if and when Anthony is selected by the coaches, who should Stern choose?
The next no-brainer is Dallas forward Josh Howard. My heart says Baron Davis because of the year he’s having and that he’s carrying his team. But my brain can’t overlook what Howard is doing for the NBA’s best team, even if he is the Mavericks second-best player.
Dallas deserves two All-Stars. Plus, Howard is one of those underrated guys who never fully gets the respect/appreciation/attention he deserves. So I don’t mind him being rewarded.
If Howard is invited, which I suspect Mavericks coach Avery Johnson will make sure happens if he ends up being the West All-Star coach (which he is on pace to do), that means B. Diddy is the next lock.
Not Ray Allen (a perennial All-Star).
Not Shawn Marion (whose game I love).
Not Kevin Martin (at least not yet, anyway).
Baron deserves it, probably more than ever. That was evident in Saturday’s loss to Cleveland. With all the excitement and emotion the Warriors had Saturday, with the new-and-improved talent Nellie had at his disposal, the Warriors sorely missed B. Diddy.
He is the team’s best player. Even though I’m close enough to see his warts, he is unquestionably one of the league’s elite point guards. The dude is averaging 20.9 points, 8.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals. What other point guard is putting up better numbers? What other point guard has meant more to his team? Only one out West can boast such production and influence.
If the Warriors had a better record, B. Diddy would be getting buzz as an MVP candidate. He’s at least an All-Star.

Here’s how I see the West All-Star roster panning out:

G Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
G Tracy McGrady, Houston (he led Allen Iverson by 30,000+ votes)
F Tim Duncan, San Antonio
F Kevin Garnett, Minnesota
C Yao Ming, Houston

ReservesG Steve Nash, Phoenix
G Allen Iverson, Denver
F Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
F Carlos Boozer, Utah
C Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix
*Wild Card: F Josh Howard, Dallas
*Wild Card: F Carmelo Anthony, Denver
#Stern’s choice: Baron Davis, Golden State

*Wild Card = The coaches have to select two guards, two forwards and a center. But they also get two Wild Card selections, regardless of position.
#Stern’s choice: Commissioner David Stern chooses the replacement for injured starting center Yao Ming.


Let This Be a Reminder

With all the new talent in tow, with all the athleticism and versatility at Nellie’s disposal, this team is nothing without Baron Davis.
Saturday’s blown 19-point lead showed that, more than anything, the Warriors need their point guard. Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington are talented. Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins are the future. Sarunas Jasikevicius and Matt Barnes and Kelenna Azubuike give the Warriors a pretty deep bench. but this car crashes with out Baron at the wheel, unless Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups or someone of that caliber takes his place.
The Warriors need a leader. They need someone whose mere presence matters. They need someone who, no matter what the defense does, can make plays and nothing into something.
Baron is that guy.
The team on the floor Saturday was a compilation of good players. But you need a great player to have a chance to win. That’s why the Warriors had such a hard time against a team play the end of a back-to-back to close out a seven-game road trip after arriving in its hotel at 5:30 a.m.
The Warriors should’ve won the game easily. But a monster with no head is no monster at all.