The Lakers were unable to sign Raja Bell, but another antagonist is on the way.
Free-agent forward Matt Barnes decided to sign a two-year deal with the Lakers, choosing the chance at a championship over a more lucrative offer from Cleveland on the same day Theo Ratliff agreed to a one-year, $1.35-million contract with the Lakers, adding a veteran shot-blocking center to the second unit.
As the Lakers found out last season, Barnes, 30, can pester shooting guards and small forwards alike. He and Kobe Bryant engaged in a trash-talking session in Orlando's 96-94 victory last March that included Barnes pretending to throw an inbounds pass directly at Bryant's face. Bryant didn't even flinch.
The most the Lakers could pay Barnes next season is $1.77 million, about half of what Cleveland was offering, and Barnes has a player option in 2011-12 for almost $2 million that would allow him to test the market again in a year if he wished.
Miami was a possibility for Barnes, and Boston made a late run, but the Lakers had the extra allure of being two-time defending champions.
"It's official," Barnes wrote on his Twitter account Thursday night. "I am a Los Angles (sic) Laker. This is a dream come true!!!"
Barnes averaged 8.8 points and 25.9 minutes a game last season for Orlando, his seventh team since leaving UCLA in 2002. Earlier this week, he appeared to be headed to Toronto for two years and $9 million as part of a sign-and-trade transaction, but the deal fell through.
The Lakers now have 11 players under contract next season, not including second-round draft picks Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, who played relatively well this month on the Lakers' summer league team and could round out the roster. NBA teams must carry at least 13 players.
Barnes and Bryant are believed to be on good terms these days, but it wasn't that way when they played each other a few weeks after the All-Star break. Bryant missed a last-second 20-footer that would have sent the game to overtime and then chuckled three times in a 10-second span afterward when asked about Barnes' in-game behavior. "It's entertaining," he said.
As reporters asked Ron Artest what he thought of Barnes, Lamar Odom yelled out from across the locker room that Barnes was "a monkey" who "picked the right game to act tough." Odom then compared Barnes to pro wrestling's Ric Flair, known for whipping up crowds with his antics.
Meanwhile, the Lakers quietly added another defensive presence by picking up the 37-year-old Ratliff.
Next season will be the 16th for Ratliff, who began his career with Detroit in 1995, when Andrew Bynum was 8 years old.
"I've had a long and very rewarding career, and joining a storied and legendary franchise such as the Lakers adds an even more special element," Ratliff said in a statement, adding that he hoped to help his new team "win a third straight championship."
Ratliff didn't do much with San Antonio most of last season, averaging 1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 21 games, though he posted better numbers after being traded in February to Charlotte, where he started 26 of 28 games and averaged 5.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots in 22.3 minutes.
Defense has always been Ratliff's specialty: He has averaged 2.4 blocked shots in his career and led the league three times in the category.
"Theo has long been considered to be one of the best defensive big men in the league," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. "Together with Bynum, [ Pau] Gasol, Odom and Artest, he gives us a formidable and deep front line."
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