Posted by Sekou Smith
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The last time the Los Angeles Lakers added one of Kobe Bryant‘s agitators to their ranks, the guy played hero in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Could Matt Barnes be this summer’s version of Ron Artest for the Lakers?
Either way, the Lakers bolstered their ranks with the acquisition of Barnes (and veteran center Theo Ratliff), finishing off a summer of two-time defending champ patch work that also included re-signing Derek Fisher and adding Steve Blake to fortify the point guard position.
Barnes, however, offers up a bit of intrigue. He didn’t back down from the challenge of going at Bryant while playing for the Orlando Magic last season, doing his best to get under Bryant’s skin at every turn:
Now they’ll join forces, much the same way Bryant and Artest did last season in helping the Lakers to the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The Lakers pursued Raja Bell, yet another well-traveled former Bryant agitator, for the same role. But he opted to sign with Utah instead.
None of this should surprise anyone. This is the new age NBA, where the line between friends and foes is blurred on the regular. Whatever problems Artest might have had with Bryant were remedied the moment they shared space in the same locker room. Barnes will probably follow the same path, though he might do so while firing a few salvos in the direction of his former team.
After all, what role player wouldn’t want to sign on with the two-time defending champs? Barnes, who starred at UCLA, took less to join the Lakers, per the Los Angeles Times:
The most the Lakers could pay Barnes next season is $1.77 million, about half of what Cleveland was offering, and Barnes has a player option in 2011-12 for almost $2 million that would allow him to test the market again in a year if he wished.
Miami was a possibility for Barnes, and Boston made a late run, but the Lakers had the extra allure of being two-time defending champions.
“It’s official,” Barnes wrote on his Twitter account Thursday night. “I am a Los Angles Laker. This is a dream come true!!!”
Barnes averaged 8.8 points and 25.9 minutes a game last season for Orlando, his seventh team since leaving UCLA in 2002. Earlier this week, he appeared to be headed to Toronto for two years and $9 million as part of a sign-and-trade transaction, but the deal fell through.
That tough break for the Cavaliers and Raptors turned into yet another summer coup for an established power. It’s been that kind of summer, where the rich get richer and in the case of a couple of teams on opposite coasts, the rich get filthy rich.