Matt Barnes Shoots Down The Notion That Kobe's Presence Is Responsible For The Laker's Fall From Grace As A Premier Destination
Sports Illustrated- “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.
If there is anyone that has a reason to throw Kobe under the bus it is former teammate Matt Barnes. Barnes has made his living being an agitator, why not say what you can to get under the skin of the best basketball player on the worst team in Los Angeles? I'll tell you why, not only does Barnes have a great deal of respect for Kobe, but it's also patently untrue.
Anyone that thinks the presence of Kobe Bryant, who is on the downside of his career but still one of the best in the game when healthy, is responsible for people saying "thanks, but no thanks" to the Lakers does not understand professional sports. Is Kobe a dick? Absolutely. Is that attitude, on and off the court, part of the reason that he has an entire handful of championship rings? Absolutely. Don't let Dwight Howard fool you. The 7 foot butter soft center is the exception, not the rule. Talent draws more talent. No matter how disgruntled and difficult that talent may be to play with. Is Kobe someone you want at your child's first birthday? Maybe, maybe not. Safe to say he's not going to be the best man at your wedding. However, if winning is the goal Bryant has proved to be the one of the best men for the job. If you turn down a chance to play with him out of disdain for his leadership qualities, simply put, you do not have a winner's mentality.
Look at the irritating nature of some of the best athlete's in sports. Now look at their ability to draw talent to respective organizations. Sidney Crosby is one of the most unlikable people league wide. How many free agents say no when Pittsburgh comes knocking at their door? You think Chris Kunitz cares that Sidney Crosby is insufferable as long as he hand delivers him 30 goal seasons and an opportunity at a Stanley Cup? You think LeBron's teammates care that he constantly throws them under the bus if he continues to get them open shots and earn them contracts they probably don't deserve? LeBron could tell his entire team they are worthless and they would all be smiling ear to ear in his Instagram picture 5 minutes later. How many people do you see frowning in championship photos? Winning cures all. Does the Lakers downfall have something to do with Kobe demanding a monster contract in the twilight of his career? Sure, but it has far more to do with the episode of 'Family Feud' being filmed in their front office.