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.