When Matt Barnes arrived in Memphis, Coach Dave Joerger informed Grizz Nation that the Grizzlies were going to be "nasty" this season. However, Memphis has been far from "nasty" this year so far...at least in the way Joerger meant. Rather, this year has felt like a transition from the traditional grinding style the Grizzlies have previously relied on into a faster style of ball.
Funny enough, as the Grizzlies have adapted this new style of play, Matt Barnes has only gotten better for the Memphis Grizzlies. He's been the most consistent player for Memphis the past couple of months, and he earned a place in the starting lineup in December.
On the year, Barnes is averaging 8.6 PPG and 5 rebounds per game. In the month of December, Barnes shot 36.1% from three. Many may not have expected Barnes to be a dependable force from the outside, but he seems to found himself in a rhythm from beyond the arc. In addition, Barnes had three double doubles in the month of December alone. Besides that, he saved the Grizzlies from a road loss at Detroit with this gutsy half court shot to win the game:
Barnes offers some offensive spacing, which is crucial to the Grizzlies, who have always struggled with this due to its lack of outside shooters:
When the Grizzlies have appeared old and downtrodden, Matt Barnes has always shown heart. And that's what makes him the perfect Grizzly. He may be a little rough around the edges, but his effort is always there. And that is further proven by his rebounding rate. Among small forwards, he is tied for 12th (11.2). In the end, rebounding takes determination, and you have to want it more than your opponent. So it makes sense that Barnes excels in this area.
On the defensive end, Matt Barnes is averaging a career high in steals per game at 1.2 and his versatility/ability to defend multiple positions is extremely valuable. And while Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are definitely Memphis' stars, Matt Barnes has proven himself to be a valuable offseason acquisition and dependable role player, and he has been perhaps Memphis' most reliable player so far this year. In the month of December, Barnes averaged 1.7 assists and only averaged 27.5 minutes per game. If anything, it may be fair to say Matt Barnes needs to be given more playing time as the season goes on, if his current production holds up. He has been Memphis' most consistent wing player this year on both ends of the floor. Tony Allen hasn't been able to find any offensive rhythm yet, and Jeff Green is a liability on the defensive end.
Matt Barnes played with eight other teams before joining the Grizzlies, but it appears that he's finally found his perfect match. The Los Angeles Clippers have never been known for their "toughness," and Matt Barnes played with them for three seasons before joining Memphis. Now, he's surrounded with more like-minded people such as Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, who are both leaders of the "Grit n' Grind" movement. Memphis prides itself on resiliency and effort, and while the Grizzlies are struggling to adapt their identity to the ways of the rest of the league, Matt Barnes has found his stride. He's already found a great balance between Memphis' traditional ways of "grit n' grind" and his own unique talents, both on the offensive and defensive end.
On New Year's Day, Matt Barnes posted on Instagram about how 2015 was the worst year of his life. But I have a feeling 2016 will be better, if he continues to play with the tenacity and energy that he has shown night-in and night-out so far this season. Let Memphis be your home, Matt Barnes. You belong here. And look on the bright side, at least now the issues of 2015 are behind you.