When Matt Barnes first texted Kobe Bryant about the possibility of joining the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant surprised him by immediately texting back with emphatic encouragement.
Several dozen texts later, Barnes decided he could postpone his pursuit of a long-term NBA contract to aid Kobe's chase for yet another championship.
"He said, ‘Anyone crazy enough to mess with me is crazy enough to play with me,"' Barnes said with a laugh.
Barnes formally agreed to a one-year, $1.7 million deal with the Lakers on Tuesday, holding up his gold No. 9 jersey at their training complex.
"It's been a dream of mine since I was a young kid watching basketball to play with one of the best players ever in the game," Barnes said.
But after Bryant's pursuit of Raja Bell(notes) fell through when the rugged defender signed with Utah, Bryant went after Barnes, who earned his respect as a tough defender for the past several years while playing for every other team in the Pacific Division.
Bell and Barnes share a characteristic prized by Bryant: They've stood up to the two-time NBA finals MVP, not caring about his rings or his scoring prowess.
"(Bryant) just respects the people that compete the hardest," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "He's not really in a popularity contest to make friends. He wants people beside him that compete and earn his respect. ... I think it was a conscious effort to get tougher."
Barnes has been impressed by Bryant's work ethic ever since he saw Bryant's left-handed workouts at Pauley Pavilion several years ago while Kobe had an injured right hand.
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OT Lakers' notes:
Kupchak also said he has "a good feeling" about re-signing high-flying guard Shannon Brown(notes) for the final roster spot, expecting a resolution to the negotiations in the next 7-10 days.
Second-round draft picks Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter also have a shot to make the roster in training camp after performing well in summer-league ball, particularly if Luke Walton's injured back doesn't heal.