- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes is happy to be back on a basketball court and happy to still be in Los Angeles after an offseason filled with legal trouble that very nearly left him without a team before the start of training camp.
Barnes pleaded no contest Tuesday to misdemeanor charges of unlicensed driving and resisting arrest. The judge sentenced him to two years of probation and ordered Barnes to complete 30 hours of community service and attend 13 counseling sessions with a private therapist.
Prosecutors opted not to charge Barnes with the felony originally claimed in the arrest by Manhattan Beach police. Barnes allegedly refused to cooperate and threatened an officer before he was arrested on suspicion of threatening a public official, which is a felony.
"I went through some stuff this summer, legally, that just got handled the other day. It was a mess and a joke, really," Barnes said. "They were saying I was drunk and I was doing this and I was doing that and none of it was true. But perception is everything so I just had to sit back and not say anything because we were going through legal terms. Luckily for me, the Clippers took a chance and I'm here.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office on Tuesday opted to file a misdemeanor charge but would not elaborate on why it agreed to a deal on the lesser charge.
"No. They would not talk about it because they didn't have anything to say," Barnes said. "The whole truth will come out, but I was harassed by this cop for a good three months. He took my car during a playoff game and made me walk home, arrested me when I was walking down the street, I went through some stuff but everything worked out and I'm here so I'm happy about that."
Barnes was arrested in Manhattan Beach in late July after dining with his wife, Gloria Govan. The officer who arrested Barnes reportedly had previously stopped and cited Barnes twice before and waited for Barnes outside the restaurant before placing him under arrest for driving with a suspended license.
"I was in the wrong to begin with, having the suspended license initially, and then after that it was probably because my car windows are tinted," Barnes said. "Having a tinted car is a violation but being a professional athlete out here, to protect myself and my family I don't want everyone to see me inside my car, see my kids inside my car and see my wife inside the car so we take measures to stop that."
Barnes said it was "humbling" not being sure if he would sign with a team this season before generating some interest from Miami, Boston and Dallas before ultimately signing with the Clippers, which is the team he began his NBA career with in 2004, two years after graduating from UCLA and playing in the D-League.
"I'm a competitor," Barnes said. "I'm looking forward to getting a chance to guard Kobe Bryant for real again instead of in practice. I wish those guys nothing but the best, but I'm happy to be here."
Before Barnes signed his one-year deal with the Clippers, he called Blake Griffin to make sure there was no lingering hard feelings from last year when Barnes pushed Griffin to the floor during a preseason game and called him a "flopper."
"I look at my teammates like my family," said Barnes, who worked out this offseason with MMA fighter John Marsh. "Like sticking up for Steve Blake two years ago when Jason Terry went at him. I look at my teammates as my family and I'll do anything for my family. That's the discussion Blake and I had when I signed here. People thought we had a beef, but we didn't have a beef. I just explained to him how I look at the game and approach the game and he understood that. I let him know that I'm his teammate now and people aren't going to take him down and getting away with it anymore."
The biggest adjustment Barnes said he has had to make since leaving the Lakers and signing with the Clippers is convincing his 4-year-old twin sons, Isaiah and Carter that they're no longer supposed to wear Lakers jerseys.
"The hardest sell was telling my sons that we're not Lakers no more," Barnes said. "They still wear their jerseys. I said we need to order them Clippers jerseys with their names on them this time so they understand we're Clippers, we're not Lakers no more."
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