The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of back-to-back NBA Championships but want next season to be special. With Phil Jackson set to retire at the end of next season, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers want to send Jackson off into the southern California sunset on a winning note. The Lakers have been active on the free agent market retooling for yet another championship run. So far this offseason they have signed G Steve Blake to a four-year contract, re-signed Derek Fisher for another few years, signed Theo Ratliff to add even more depth to their front line, and have signed SF Matt Barnes. Barnes opted out of the final year of his contract with the Magic because he was under the assumption they were going to re-sign him. To his dismay, the Magic decided not to re-sign him and move in another direction, resulting in Barnes being on the free agent market.
It didn’t take long for the Toronto Raptors to show interest in him. Barnes thought last Monday that he had a two-year, $9 million agreement worked out with the Raptors but that agreement fell apart after it became clear that the NBA’s complicated salary-cap rules prevented the Magic from offering that money in a sign-and-trade deal. So Barnes decided to sign a two-year, $3.6 million contract with the Lakers and, in the process, passed up on a more lucrative deal with the Cavaliers. Even though the Cavs offered a more lucrative deal, $7 million guaranteed, the opportunity to play for the two-time defending champions proved too good to pass up. Matt Barnes joined Into the Night with Tony Bruno on Fox Sports Radio to talk about what Kobe Bryant’s role was with him signing with the Lakers, there being other teams having interest in him, and whether he thought that signing with Toronto was a done deal.
What Kobe Bryant’s role was with him signing with the Lakers:
“Kobe has been the driving force behind this. I have been talking to Kobe back and forth like we were boyfriend and girlfriend for the last two weeks and sending us texts and talking. It feels good when you have the best player in the world in your corner and Kobe is definitely in my corner. He sent me a crazy text message today saying something like, anyone crazy enough to mess with me is crazy enough to play with me. So I think that was a good tone to set and I think I am ready to be a Laker.”
On there being other teams having interest in him:
“There were a few teams. I had a deal to go up to Toronto that fell off the table and when people ask me about that, I just say that everything happens for a reason. Even the money was better in Toronto. It would have given me an opportunity for me and my family, but deep down, once I started talking to Kobe and the Lakers were an option, even though the money wasn’t the greatest option on the table I knew that I wanted to be a Laker and we made it happen.”
Whether he thought that signing with Toronto was a done deal:
“Yeah from my understanding. I haven’t really said nothing about it and somehow it leaked to Sportscenter and everyone started texting me congratulating me, but my agent the whole time told me to hold tight. I wasn’t really talking to no one. I was just kind of sitting back listening and the deal fell off the table I am a little disappointed but at the same time it opened up the option to be a Laker again and now I am a Laker.”
Whether Orlando tried to re-sign him:
“To tell you the truth, Orlando, which I thought was a great fit felt all went well and from signs I thought that once I opted out that it was a no-brainer that I was going to re-sign and be there for a while but things didn’t work out. From my end there is no hard feelings. I know probably more than anybody in the NBA that this is a business and they had to do what is best for their team and they did that by signing the guys that they did and making the moves that they did and I am just excited to get to play against them.”