With the L.A. Lakers’ offseason signing of Matt Barnes, it’s hard to argue against the idea that the two-time defending champions have formed the most agitating duo in the League: The Bash Brothers.
Depending on how old you are or what sports you follow, you might remember the nickname “Bash Brothers” from Oakland A’s sluggers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, or from the ’92 Disney movie Might Ducks, back when Dean Portman and Falton Reed were throwing ‘bows like they were Ludacris at a downtown club in the Dirty South. But this is the new age of enforcers, with hit men walking around in the NBA.
Barnes is known for his defensive presence and ability to take other players out of their comfort zone — feel free to get Kobe’s opinion on that matter. I wouldn’t exactly describe Barnes as a “lockdown” defender, per se, but he’s among the more relentless and enthusiastic in the League, and his ability to help the D isn’t just a matter of checking opponents. Matter of fact, Barnes ranked second in the League in rebounds per 48 minutes among small forwards, with 12.3, only behind Charlotte’s human crash dummy, Gerald Wallace. With the reputation of being an edgy, temperamental player, Barnes’ actions have been highly documented throughout the League as a forewarning, such as the ball-fake at Kobe’s face in Orlando, or the 20 technical fouls he’s picked up over the last two seasons, or even when he slapped a summer pro-am league coach recently. There’s no doubt that Barnes’ intensity can swing both ways. It can either be an asset or hindrance to a team, so Barnes needs to check himself and make sure that his emotions don’t carry over negatively on the Lakers — the “Zen Master” won’t put up with that kind of nonsense.
When the Lakers lost to the Celtics in the ’08 Finals, Kobe stated that his team was soft; they needed to add the pitbull mentality to their game. They decided to go out and sign Mamba’s on-court nemesis, Ron Artest, the following summer, who brought toughness and lock-down defense. Now, adding a player like Barnes is going to keep things interesting, at the very least, and possibly amp things up. Barnes can also score the basketball, but Lakers fans better hope he doesn’t catch a cold and start chucking up three pointers like the old days in Golden State.
Kobe also tried to make a push to bring on-court enemy Raja Bell to L.A., but Bell chose Utah instead. (Talk about holding a grudge.) If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Mamba is starting to become the Batman of the NBA by bringing all of his enemies to the Staples Center, which you could now dub “The Asylum.”
As for Artest, where do I begin? The former Defensive Player of the Year ended the Pacers “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” era after fighting in the stands at The Palace. Artest is still vulnerable against quicker players, though, while Barnes has some quickness and quite a bit of power in his 6-7 frame. I expect Lakers fans to give these two a standing ovation when they’re on the court together, the same way Ducks fans greeted Portman and Reed during their times on the rink — beating up on the opposing teams best players and smiling and laughing while doing so.
Obviously, Artest is excited about it.
“Matt is tougher than nails!” Artest wrote on Twitter after Barnes was signed. “Matt has the heart of a lion on steroids wit extra chest hairs and three testicles screaming ‘Adrian’!!!!!! Tougher than Richard Simmons trying to take off his spandex!! Matt Barnes is tougher than my rough ass feet!! Tougher than a penguin on steroids!!”
Like I said, welcome to the Asylum.