Matt Barnes: Lakers' free-agent rut due to front office, not Kobe Bryant
Editor's note: The following story quotes an upcoming feature written by Chris Ballard on Clippers forward Matt Barnes. Check back with SI.com on Friday to read the full profile.
The common misconception is that players cower at the idea of playing with Kobe due to his ultracompetitive nature, says Barnes. But the onus is actually on the front office, Barnes recently told SI.com's Chris Ballard for an upcoming feature story.
“The reason people don’t want to go to the Lakers is because of management,” Barnes tells SI.com. “Kobe can be the scapegoat all they want but if you play hard, Kobe likes you. And if you bulls--- around, he doesn’t. It’s plain and simple. He’s not a vocal leader. He just expects you to play as hard as you can every minute on the court, like he does.”
Barnes has first-hand experience with Bryant’s treatment of free agents. When he entered the market back in 2010, Barnes turned down a lucrative deal and decided instead to play with Bryant, a man with whom he shared several run-ins, including an incident where Barnes pretended to throw the ball at Bryant’s face and the longtime Laker didn’t even flinch.
“You want to be a Laker?” Bryant asked Barnes, according to Ballard's story.
“Hell yeah!” Barnes answered.
Barnes soon learned what type of teammate he inherited on the plane ride to a 2010 preseason game. Barnes saw Bryant feverishly writing diagrams on a scrap of paper and asked what he was doing.
“I’m drawing our offensive plays and where I’ll get double-teamed in the triangle,” he told Barnes. “That way I can figure out where you guys are going to be open.”
As a California native, Barnes’ decision to join the Lakers was an easy one, though Bryant's recruitment helped reinforce it.
Later, Bryant explained why he reached out to Barnes.
“Anyone crazy enough to mess with me is crazy enough to play with me," he said. — DeAntae Prince
GALLERY: RARE PHOTOS OF KOBE BRYANT