Back in the Free Agency period of 2009, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to essentially swap Trevor Ariza for the troubled Ron Artest.
A whole gaggle of fans, whether they were haters or members of Laker Nation, questioned the move. They feared that Ron Artest would destroy the chemistry of a team that had just won a championship with his volatile personality. They feared that Artest would clash with Kobe Bryant, just as they did during the 2009 Western Conference Semi-Finals. People were bracing themselves for the worst.
If the "worst" was winning championship number 16, then you really couldn't have had a better season.
Ron Artest used to hate Kobe's guts on the court. He would always take subtle jabs that referees always gave Kobe favorable calls, that Kobe would always elbow him. During games, he and Kobe would go at it, eventually leading to both players jawing and glaring at each other. During those days, no love was lost between the two...
From the 2009 Playoffs, fast-forward by one year, just one year.
In the Western Conference Finals against Phoenix, after Ron Artest had just hit the game-winning shot off of a missed jumper by Kobe, who was the first person he wound up hugging? Kobe Bryant.
Game 7 against the Celtics. After the final buzzer rang and the Lakers had finally won the title for their repeat, who was the first person Kobe ended up hugging? Ron Artest.
If you only started following the NBA, you'd think Kobe and Ron-Ron were the best of friends and have been teammates for five or more years. No love lost, but there was certainly love gained...
Now, the Lakers have added another antagonist to their superstar to the team's roster. Reportedly, the Lakers have finally signed Matt Barnes to a two-year, 1.77M deal.
The signing of Matt Barnes further upgrades an already beefed-up bench. Matt Barnes was signed for his defensive capabilities, brought in as someone who can take over Ron Artest's defensive duties, should Ron find himself in foul trouble. Barnes is also a valid threat from deep. All these skills of Barnes fortifies a suddenly powerful bench... But at what cost?
We are all probably aware of the jawing that transpired during a regular season game between the Lakers and the Magic. Matt Barnes had attempted to get under Kobe's skin (which failed primarily), almost supplanting Raja Bell as Kobe Public Enemy No. 1. He also ended up jawing with Lamar Odom. Quite a similar scenario as Ron Artest before he signed with the Lakers.
Now, the level of conflict is nowhere near the level of Kobe and Artest of a year ago, and it is most certainly not at the level at which Kobe and Bell had back in 2006. But all of these conflicts boil down to "competitive fire", something that impressed Kobe enough to lobby Barnes to Kupchak and the rest of Lakers' management.
Only time will tell if the addition of Matt Barnes will spark LA to another three-peat. But if Ron Artest's addition has foreshadowed anything, Matt Barnes might find himself hugging Bryant in celebration of their 17th championship.
What we do know is that for Bryant, Odom, and the rest of the Lakers, Matt Barnes is now a key piece in their quest to another title. They'll get along just fine. It's all water under the bridge. Forgive and forget.
After all, they are in Los Angeles, the City of Angels...
Where enemies become friends.