Let me preface this blog by stating that it’s not meant as a slant against Kurt and Forum Blue and Gold. I visit Kurt’s blog daily and he definitely knows his hoops.
A few days ago, Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold made his case against the Lakers acquiring Ron Artest. Kurt’s blog focused upon a comparison between Artest and Lamar Odom. His argument was sound. But I disagree.
The Lakers should pursue Artest through a trade or free agency because:
1. Artest is a defensive force. He’s one of a handful of players (Kobe, Duncan, KG) that can dominate a game on both ends. Four seasons ago, he was Defensive Player of the Year. During that season, Artest held his offensive targets, including some of the league’s top players, to 8.1 points per game on 9.3 shots per game and 42.6 percent shooting. This can’t be emphasized enough. I know four seasons have passed, but Artest is only 28 years old — a year younger than Kobe Bryant. At 6-7, 250 pounds he can guard four of the five positions in basketball.
2. Teams with two 1st team All-NBA defenders are incredibly successful. The Tim Duncan-Bruce Bowen Spurs have won three out of the last six NBA championships in large part because of the defensive efforts of those two players. The second 3-pete Bulls featured three All-NBA defenders. Bryant is an 8-time All-NBA defender. Artest and Bryant would allow Phil Jackson the defensive options he enjoyed with Jordan and Pippen. Those two — combined with a healthy Andrew Bynum defending the paint (2.1 blks) — would transform the Lakers into an elite team defensively.
3. He’s a winner. The 2003-2004 Pacers won a league best 61 games. Upon being traded to the Kings in 2005-2006, he guaranteed the Kings would make the playoffs. Sacramento went 26-14 to close the season and clinched the eighth seed. The counter argument to this is the Kings record over the last two seasons. But Sacramento’s slide has more to do with the departure of Rick Adelman, Mike Bibby, and Bonzi Wells than it does the play of Artest. Which brings me to my next reason…
4. The Lakers are coached by Phil Jackson. Artest has to be coached by a strong-willed coach that he respects. Up until the Malice at the Palace, Artest thrived under hard-nosed Rick Carlisle. He also excelled in his half season under Adelman. But the results under Eric Musselman and Reggie Theus have been mixed. Jackson has experience dealing with eccentric forwards. It was the Zen Master that reigned in Dennis Rodman — whose career was spiraling out of control before he landed in Chicago. It’s also worth noting how much Artest apparently respects Kobe. It’s not beyond reason to believe that Kobe could have the same affect on Artest, that Jordan had on Rodman.
5. Lamar Odom is not the answer at shooting forward. As a Lakers fan, I love Odom’s versatility. I was happy to see him find his niche after the Gasol trade. But he can’t defend opposing shooting forwards and many of his strengths (penetration, low-post scoring) will be null and void with the return of a healthy Andrew Bynum. The post-up opportunities will go to Gasol and Bynum and the lane will be occupied by those two. LO isn’t worth his salary either. If Odom becomes amenable to a large paycut and the role of 6th man, I’d like to see him retained. Otherwise, he becomes expendable with the acquisition of Artest or the development of Ariza.
Kurt cited Odom’s superior shooting and rebounding abilities as reason to retain Lamar rather than acquire Artest.
I agree with that to a certain extent. As Kurt alluded to, Odom’s rebounding is a big plus for the Lakers. He’s also very good at “grabbing the board and bringing the ball up himself” to start the fastbreak. But I think the starting unit is going to become increasingly half-court centric with two 7′0 footers in the lineup. Odom’s rebounding and point forward skills could be a positive for the second unit. But again, that’s dependent upon his willingness to accept a paycut and a role coming off the bench.
Artest isn’t a lights out shooter. But that’s not what the Lakers need. Scottie Pippen wasn’t a shooter. Neither was Rick Fox (especially in the playoffs). Devean George nailed the occasional 3-ball but he was far from reliable from long distance. Radmonovic is a good 3-point shooter, but he kills the Lakers defensively. And that’s where the Lakers need to become stronger. They need to become tougher. They need someone to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player like Pippen did for MJ and the Bulls. Artest brings those qualities in spades.
Artest carries a lot of baggage. But I think he’s one of the few players who is sincere about his desire to win a championship.
Given the Lakers roster and the man calling the shots on the sidelines, there isn’t a better location for him to win a title. Winning solves everything in professional sports. Winning with the Lakers might be enough to solve the enigma that has become Ron Artest.