“Allen was the first guy that showed me how NBA players spend money in strip clubs,” Barnes says. “That guy went. HARD. He’d throw so much money, and this was when I was first in the league, that I used to take my foot and scoop the s— under my chair and either re-throw it or put some in my pocket. He’d throw $30,000, $40,000 every time we went. I’m like, ‘You realize what I can do with this money?’”
Before the season began, an article was published by a major media outlet that claimed Kobe Bryant’s presence on the Lakers roster was preventing the team from landing marquee free agents.
It was filled with quotes from anonymous sources with clear agendas, and was presented with a one-sided view of Bryant’s impact from people who obviously had an axe to grind.
But a funny thing happened in response: actual NBA players (you know, the ones who supposedly wouldn’t willingly sign up to play with Kobe) came out publicly and on the record saying that absolutely wasn’t the case.
Matt Barnes, a former Lakers teammate of Bryant’s and current member of the Clippers, became the latest to take that stance — but also blamed Lakers management for the team’s sorry state of affairs.
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.”
The management argument honestly doesn’t make any sense, because players don’t care who the GM is or who is making the decisions in the front office once they’ve been signed. Certainly, guys want to play for a competent organization with a track record of winning, but beyond that, money is usually first and foremost when players are making their free agent decisions.
The irony in all of this, of course, is that Kobe wouldn’t want to have anyone as his teammate who doesn’t value effort and competitiveness as much as he does. But setting that aside, and as Barnes intimated, Bryant’s presence isn’t as much of a deterrent to other players joining the Lakers as some would lead you to believe.
Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday Night: Anthony Davis, Pelicans deserve to be in playoffs
1) Anthony Davis and his Pelicans deserve to be a playoff team — and as of now they’re in. No doubt, Russell Westbrook has put up numbers this season. But so has Anthony Davis. From Day 1. Davis has averaged 24.4 points on 53.6 percent shooting, pulled down 10.4 rebounds a game and blocked three shots. He leads the league in PER (with a Jordan/Chamberlain-like number) and is fourth in win shares. He deserves MVP consideration.
And the Pelicans are playing like a team that deserves to be in the postseason. On Tuesday night, Davis scored 29 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, plus had four blocks and two steals to lead the Pelicans to a 103-100 victory over a Golden State team that wasn’t resting anyone. That win (combined with the Spurs routing the Thunder) makes New Orleans a playoff team, they are the eight seed half a game up on OKC. The Pelicans got there on Tuesday night because Davis got help: From Quincy Pondexter and his 20 points including 4-of-4 from three; from the officials with a bad call late. (The officiating in this game was shaky both ways.) However, it was the Pelicans playing hard and pushing the best team in the league that made them look like a playoff team. They’re not beating the Warriors in a seven-game series, but it would be entertaining. New Orleans deserves to be there.
2) Oklahoma City is going to need some help to make the postseason. The Spurs are making everyone look bad lately — just ask Steve Kerr and the Warriors — and following that trend San Antonio thrashed Oklahoma City 113-88 Tuesday night. It was a blowout from the opening tip. Gregg Popovich said it wasn’t a fair fight without KD and Ibaka, it didn’t look like it. This felt like the punch that could weaken their knees and bring down OKC’s playoff dreams crashing to the floor. As it is they are half a game back of the Pelicans — and New Orleans has the tie breaker. Meaning the Thunder are going to need a little help to get to the playoffs. Tuesday night, San Antonio did what it did because Kawhi Leonard tied his career record of 26 points — and he played just 24 minutes. All the Spurs’ shooters couldn’t seem to miss. OKC looked outclassed on the night the Pelicans stood toe-to-toe with the league’s best. Only one looked like a playoff team and they now have the upper hand.
3) Clippers move into a tie for three seed in West, but it’s not pretty. The Lakers played harder and frankly looked better than the Clippers for large swaths of Tuesday night. The Lakers seemed embarrassed by their Sunday performance — they should have been — and were looking to turn things around. The Clippers got enough from their starters — and nothing from their bench — to get a 105-100 win. Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick each had 27 points on the night. With that the Clippers moved into a virtual tie for the three seed in the West with Memphis. Those two teams play later Saturday and I would say that game could determine the three seed out West, but the Spurs (just half a game back of Memphis and L.A.) could have a say in that.
4) Miami stays alive in East playoff chase with win. Brooklyn has Brook Lopez playing like a guy who wants to get paid this summer. Indiana has the return of Paul George. Boston has real grit. And through it all the Miami Heat will not go away. Goran Dragic had 28 points, and Luol Deng chipped in 21 in a Heat win over the Hornets Tuesday night, another hard-fought victory. With that, Miami is just half a game back of Boston for the eight seed. Miami has Chicago and Toronto its next two games — those two tough games will determine their playoff chances.
5) Sim Bhullar makes some NBA history. The 7’5″ mountain of a man became the first player of Indian descent to play in the NBA. It wasn’t much to see, just 16 seconds, and it doesn’t mean the NBA is going to take the place of cricket in that country’s hearts. But it’s a step. And you change things one step at a time.
Lakers coach Byron Scott endorses DeAndre Jordan for Defensive Player of the Year
Crawford has been out since March 2 with a calf injury, so expected limited minutes. Still, more Crawford and less Austin Rivers is good for the Clippers.
Crawford, the defending Sixth Man of the Year award winner, averages 16.4 points per game and brings needed shot creation off the bench for the Clippers. That said he is shooting 40.1 percent, he’s going to get singled out defensively in the playoffs, and the Clippers are -7.8 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court.
He doesn’t solve all the Clippers’ problems. But he is an upgrade.