Lakers' Matt Barnes back in practice

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- General manger Mitch Kupchak said heading into the NBA's All-Star break the Lakers were unlikely to make a trade before the league's Feb. 24 deadline. Monday afternoon, the team took a step towards the next best thing.

After missing the team's last 20 games, forward Matt Barnes participated in practice for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. He'd averaged 7.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 37 games before the injury.

While Barnes only participated in non-contact portions of the team's practice, he was encouraged simply to be on the court.

"Just to get out there, run, sweat," he said. "It felt good."

The Lakers will still need to be patient with his recovery. Barnes indicated he'll need three more full practices following Monday's before he can be deemed ready to play. With Los Angeles scheduled to play Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, getting them in may not be as simple as it sounds. It is not at all uncommon for the Lakers not to practice after back-to-back games, meaning a return for Barnes before next week is unlikely.

Watching in street clothes has been tough for Barnes. "Especially since we've been up and down," he said. "When the team's struggling, you want to push that much more to get back sooner."

Having come this close to a full recovery, Barnes says he'll be careful not to overdo it.

"It's important for me to come back and stay. Not come back too early and have to take games off here and there. My goal is to come back strong."

The Lakers are looking forward to a boost from

"He brings a great deal of energy in his shooting and his
defensive intensity," Kobe Bryant said. "We're looking forward to
having him back."

Brian Kamenetzky is co-author of the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.