Matt Barnes a perfect fit for the Lakers
In the 2009 playoffs, Ron Artest ran across the court and got into Bryant's face after he thought he was elbowed in the throat. With the two helping the Lakers win the 2010 championship, each oozed enthusiasm when speaking about the other's work ethic. Barnes tried to test Bryant last season in a regular-season matchup so much that he pretended to inbound the ball at Bryant's face, and the Black Mamba refused to flinch. With Barnes joining the Lakers to bolster the backcourt defense, don't expect Bryant to flinch next season when he talks about how much Barnes brings to the team.
It's an interesting situation we're in these days. There's been much debate recently about whether past generations of NBA players would have joined forces in a fashion similar to what LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have done in Miami. Besides Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird already having solid supporting casts around them, many point to the reputation that all three carried in being obsessive about beating their opponents. Barnes now crosses into friendly territory, but the circumstances are different. As shown in that game last season, Bryant and Barnes couldn't stand each other.
But similar to the Bryant-Artest dynamic, the very same reason the two nearly came to blows on opposite teams serves as the very same reason that they will bond together on the same team. Artest might have often appeared lost in the triangle offense, but Bryant knew he'd give it his all every game. Barnes may need to keep his emotions in check, but Bryant likely recognizes that passion can easily help spark a team that's often gotten beaten defensively.
The Lakers' acquisition of Barnes also neatly fits into their off-season storyline, in which General Manager Mitch Kupchak has added tiny wrinkles to make the two-time defending champions even more dangerous. With Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher returning, the entire corps remains intact. In acquiring Steve Blake, the Lakers added an immediate offensive punch to the backcourt reserves. With Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter and Theo Ratliff, the Lakers have dependable options to back up the loaded and talented front line. And after acquiring Barnes, the team brings in another Bryant adversary who will soon become another worshiper.
And when a player is in Bryant's good graces, that usually spells success.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Former Orlando Magic forward Matt Barnes agreed to a two-year deal with the Lakers on Thursday, turning down a more lucrative offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Credit: Elsa/Getty Images.