Matt Barnes Ejected in Magic's Win Over the Grizzlies
ORLANDO – For a nomadic journeyman with his seventh team in seven years – with a career scoring average just over seven points -- Matt Barnes sure is making his presence felt late in the season with the Orlando Magic.
Barnes, whose chin-to-chin jawing with Kobe Bryant helped the Magic beat the Lakers last month, was ejected Sunday night after he charged Memphis center Hasheem Thabeet and gave him a two-handed shove in the chest.
It added some some fire to an otherwise unappealing matchup, a Western Conference team out of the playoff picture against the projected No. 2 seed in the East.
What started midway in the third period with an offensive foul against Barnes, ended after considerable pushing and shoving from both sides, resulting in technical fouls against Vince Carter, O.J. Mayo and Thabeet. Barnes was the only one ejected, and no punches were thrown.
The Magic won, 107-92, but not before falling behind by five immediately after the scuffle.
"I let my temper get out of control,'' Barnes said. "It was the wrong thing to do. A lot of people talk about the Magic as not being tough, but we are a tough team. We are not going to let anyone come in and push us around.''
Barnes, starting small forward, is averaging just 8.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, but his presence has helped the Magic become a more emotional, more physical team. They were criticized at times last season for not protecting center Dwight Howard, who is fouled hard constantly around the basket.
Barnes has received nine technical fouls this season, second most on the Magic behind Dwight Howard, who has 15. Howard will be automatically suspended for one game if he receives his 16th. He appeared close to getting his 16th both Friday night in San Antonio and Sunday at home against Memphis.
While the Magic signed Barnes as a free agent this summer because they liked his passion for the game, that same quality has intensified late in the season. Twice in the last two weeks, Barnes has clashed with Magic coach Stan Van Gundy for the way he was being used – or not used – in games. He also carried on a long-distance verbal battle with Lamar Odom of the Lakers.
"At least the benches didn't empty,'' Van Gundy said when asked about the altercation Sunday. "Matt thought he was fouled on the play. He started to run over to the official and complain, and Thabeet pushed him. Then Matt sort of lost it. And then everyone was involved. When they said he was ejected, he left. So that was all positive.''
Thabeet, a rookie still trying to carve a niche in the NBA game, sounded rather amused by the altercation. Although he may have bumped Barnes first after the call was made, it was not with the force that Barnes used, which was why only one player was ejected.
"He was competing. I was competing,'' Thabeet said. "I wasn't even sure what was happening. I thought I got pushed. And I pushed back. I think everyone just kind of overreacted. I got shoved, and I just shoved back.''