Tough Enough: Matt Barnes and the Diminishing ‘Soft’ Label

Before the rumors started spreading about Matt Barnes possibly coming to the Lakers, most of Laker Nation could not have ever imagined Barnes wearing the sacred purple and gold. Who could blame them? Matt Barnes tried and more importantly failed to intimidate our beloved Kobe Bryant on March 7th, 2010, when the Lakers visited the Magic for a rematch of the 2009 NBA Finals.

May 24, 2010 - Boston, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - epa02171487 Orlando Magic forward Matt Barnes battles Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen (L) for a rebound in the third quarter of the Eastern Conference final round playoff game at the TD Bank Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 24 May 2010. The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series 3-0 and the winner will advance to play either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals.

They battled throughout the game and when things started to get a physical, the officials had to step in. The highlight of the night was when Barnes was inbounding the basketball; tried to make Bryant flinch by directing the ball towards Kobe’s face, but Kobe stood tall and valiant as if the ball had not come centimeters from his face. Since that day, it is safe to say that the fans of the purple and gold would forever consider Matt Barnes an enemy.

When free agency began, it was not love at first sight for Barnes and the Lakers. The Lakers had their eyes on Raja Bell, coincidentally another of Kobe Bryant’s nemesis who specializes in defense and key three point shooting. Barnes had agreed in principle with the Toronto Raptors. However, Bell decides to sign with his former team the Utah Jazz even with Kobe Bryant trying to recruit him. Barnes’ deal with Toronto suddenly went south and more importantly he turned down Cleveland’s offer that would have been double what the Lakers are paying him now.

Could it be fate? Destiny? Or just another brilliant pick up by Mitch Kupchak?

Now he is part of the Los Angeles Lakers and back in his home state. Although he is not from Los Angeles or Southern California for that matter, he is a California kid and a UCLA Bruin Alumni. So he is not new to the Los Angeles area and is well known for being part of three Sweet 16 teams with the Bruins in his final three years. While at UCLA he averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game, but his last season as a Bruin is when he really flourished with 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. Those numbers got him drafted 46th overall in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Next: Life in the Big Leagues

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