Clippers’ small forward Matt Barnes showing his versatility


It can be argued that Matt Barnes is playing the best of his 10-year career.

At least that what the numbers say.

Barnes is averaging a career-high 10.7 points. His 36.2% three-point shooting is the second highest in his career.

And Barnes is doing all this as the backup small forward behind Caron Butler.

“I think he’s comfortable with his role on the team,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said about Barnes. “I have a lot of confidence in him, and he’s done a good job for us in a lot of different areas [with] his versatility.”

The Clippers rarely run any plays for Barnes. Barnes is at his best running on the fast break and cutting to the basket.

“He does a nice job running the court,” Del Negro said. “He has a good edge to him on the defensive end. He rebounds the ball pretty well, at a pretty good rate for his position. He just brings a lot to the table.”

Barnes started in place of Butler (strained left elbow) against Memphis on Wednesday night. He averages 26 minutes per game, fourth-highest on the team.

Barnes “and Caron have kind of fed off each other a little bit,” Del Negro said. “I think they have a nice little balance there. Whoever is playing well or shooting it or rebounding it or playing defense, they’re kind of handling that small position as much as possible for us.”

Hill playing better

With Butler out and Barnes starting, it meant that Grant Hill was back playing small forward.

Del Negro said Hill has mostly been the third-string power forward, but now the veteran gets to play his natural position.

“I have tremendous confidence in Grant,” Del Negro said. “He knows how to play. I never have a hesitation to put him in a game at any point. And I know he’s going to give me what he can.”

Bledsoe still out

Eric Bledsoe missed his second straight game with a sore left calf, and it doesn’t look as if he will play any time soon. He can’t even practice with the team.

The Clippers don’t play again until Sunday, which would give Bledsoe three more days to rest the ankle.

“He’s feeling better today,” Del Negro said. “It was the first day that I talked to him and he said, ‘Yeah, I’m feeling better.’ That was good. He hasn’t done much but kind of stationary shooting and just getting rest. He’s getting evaluated every day. We’ll have a couple of days of practice. Hopefully he can get out there in the next couple.”