Making the case for Ron Artest in LA

» July 8, 2008 4:03 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

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.


18 Responses to “Making the case for Ron Artest in LA”

  1. Garcia Vega Says:

    Good write up on Artest. I think he would help the Lakers in alot of ways. It would be a gamble that ultimately could pay off big dividends for the Lakers. Do I think they will pull the trigger and do it? No. Not now. 30-35 games into the regular season might be a different story.

  2. A-Train Says:

    Good post Hoff. I like this one a lot. Everything you said makes sense.

    Two issues I have though (you knew they would be coming). The language on the whole “He’s one of a handful of players (Kobe, Duncan, KG) that can dominate a game on both ends” is pretty strong. He’s not *that* good.

    I’ve been a big Artest fan and supporter my whole life. He grew up two towns over from me and I watched him play in high school and summer leagues. My friends played AAU with him. St.John’s is the NCAA team I root for; I have his SJU jersey and Pacers #91 jersey. I’ve always loved his heart and passion. He plays to win.

    With that said, he has ALWAYS been out of his f’ing mind. He is a pitbull, a walking time bomb waiting to detonate. I had a friend who did media relations for the Bulls and he told me stories about Artest doing some crazy shit. That’s why the Bulls shipped him out. The Knicks passed on him because they knew he was nuts. My friends who played AAU with him told me stories about him threatening referees with clipboards and punching players in the face. The melee in Detroit, etc. I mean, good intentions or bad intentions, he is nuts.

    And I’ve ALWAYS defended the guy. I’ve always felt he’s a good guy who, you know, needs meds. But now, after the latest player option fiasco, I’m done supporting him. Enough is enough. He has not grown up at all. He’s not ever going to get it. He is the village idiot.

    He’s basically Corey Maggette with slightly more inefficient offensive capabilities and much better defense.

    But he’s nuts! Is that kind of player worth the risk?

    I don’t know. I think it could work. If all goes well, he fits perfectly with the Lakers, Coach keeps him under wraps, etc., the Lakers win a title.

    But are we being naive in thinking that all will go well with Ron Artest in Los Angeles? I mean, he couldn’t behave in Indianapolis and Sacramento. Wouldn’t he get into more trouble in L.A.? Wouldn’t he all of a sudden develop the urge to become an actor?

    I just don’t take that risk. I don’t. Sign Ruben Patterson for dirt instead and revisit your team needs at the trade deadline.

    The Lakers will be good enough to make the playoffs. They just need to worry about becoming good enough to win it all once they get to the playoffs. Thus, there’s no rush to improve this team right now. They don’t NEED Artest. They do need, however, a tough veteran player who’s going to contribute.

    Man… I see Artest kicking Kobe’s ass in practice. The potential for something ugly happening is just too great.

  3. A-Train Says:

    But overall, I see how it could work. And it could. Just saying it would be really risky.

  4. Erick Says:

    Great post Hoff, and great comment A-Train. The only drawbacks to having Artest are his personality and his offensive ego.

    I don’t think Artest is as bad a person as the media thinks he is, but Artest has moments where his brain just ceases to function. As A-Train mentioned, “[Artest is] nuts!”

    And while Jackson is certainly a coach that Artest will respect and play hard for, Jackson is also a coach who wants players to figure things out for themselves. As Artest has proven, sometimes that means buckling down, but sometimes that means Artest trying to do everything himself and breaking down what his team is trying to do.

    Plus Artest isn’t a great off-ball player, and isn’t a great shooter which the triangle loves. And as A-Train has mentioned, Artest-Kobe can result in an ego war.

    If I’m the Lakers, I go HARD after James Posey and overpay him, and I also look into someone like James Jones who can shoot, defend, and won’t ever cause a problem. Maggette is an option if he wants to move cross town and the Lakers want to pay.

  5. Hoffman Says:

    Garcia Vega,

    I’d prefer the Lakers to acquire Artest as a free agent. But with their salary situation and the fact that the Kings will get a lot of offers at the trade deadline, they can only hope to get him through a trade.

    But will Kupchak mess with the roster if the Lakers are doing well? I don’t know…

  6. Hoffman Says:

    A-Train,

    “Everything you said makes sense.” You mean as opposed to my age limit blog? Lol. :)

    I think you deserve mention as a game changer on both ends once you’ve won a DPOY. Multiple 1st team All-NBA defensive team selections meets my qualifications too. Artest is a lockdown defender.

    You’re right, it’s a risky move. But the payoff could be multiple championships big. I’d take the risk if I were Kupchak. Not only because Artest is that good, but because I have Phil Jackson on the sidelines. If anyone can reach Artest, it’s Phil.

  7. Hoffman Says:

    Erick,

    Thanks.

    I share a lot of the concerns you mentioned. But I think Artest is a winner. I think a lot of his issues with ball distribution in Indiana and Sacramento arised from the lack of talent surrounding him. But he never seemed to have a problem playing second fiddle to Jermaine O’Neal…until everything went downhill after the incident in Detroit.

    I understand everyone’s infatuation with Posey. But he’s not a starter. He’s a good defender and clutch time player, but he’s best suited coming off the bench. He’s not worth the more than the mid-level exception. I’d much rather see the Lakers retain Vujacic. Sasha isn’t as good as Posey now, but he’s still young.

  8. xphoenix87 Says:

    I wrote about how well Artest would fit with the Lakers mid-way through last year. Of course, that was before they fleeced Memphis to get Pau. Now, he doesn’t fit quite so well. I think optimally you’d like to have a Shane Battier type, someone who can D-up and hit from outside. However, they’re not exactly a dime-a-dozen. I do think Artest is a better fit than Odom though. They could probably get him pretty easily too if they were willing to take back Abur-Rahim or Kenny Thomas’s contract along with Artest.

  9. A-Train Says:

    I agree with everything Phoenix said.

    Battier is a better fit.

    How about Ruben Patterson?

  10. A-Train Says:

    Hoff–

    I agree Artest is a game-changer defensively. My point was that he’s not a game-changer offensively. You said the guy was a legit two-way stud.

    I like Ron… I do. But I don’t know. You have a lot of faith in Phil Jackson. I’m not a Phil Jackson fan. You know, taking care of Rodman when Jordan, Pippen, Horace Grant, Ron Harper, etc., are on the team is a different story. This Lakers team is young and fragile. And trust me, from what I know about Artest, he will not take shit from anybody. I don’t think Phil Jackson can handle him–I don’t. Phil is too smart for him. Artest needs a pitbull type of coach.

  11. Basketballogy Says:

    First, L.A. did not “fleece” Memphis to get Pau, and I wish people would quit already with that nonsense.

    To get Pao, the Lakers gave up Jarvis Crittenton, Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie, CASH (?!), Marc Gasol and two first-round draft picks.

    After next year, people may be saying what I’ve been wondering all along: did the Lakers give up too much to get Pao?

    Marc Gasol was last year’s Spanish ACB League MVP. He helped Spain get the Gold Medal in 2006 FIBA World Championship, and the Silver Medal in the 2007 FIBA European Championship. Marc is younger (of course) than Pao, and doesn’t show the tendency Pao has to be injured.

    The Lakers immediately missed Jarvis Crittenton as Jordan Farmar melted down in the heat of playoff basketball. Jarvis, by the way, can stay in front of his man.

    Everyone looked at that trade as Kwame for Pao, but it may have been a trade of tomorrow for today.

    At any rate…

    If there is a coach that can reign in Ron Artest, it is Phil Jackson. But then again, Phil doesn’t have near the energy he had when he coached Rodman.

    My opinion is that whatever upside Artest may bring to the Lakers, he is not worth the risk. The guys seems to be a head case, capable of irrational thought and behavior.

    Odom is frustrating, but Artest is not the upgrade the Lakers need. Even if the Lakers got Artest for Radmanovic and Walton, I wouldn’t want him.

    The Lakers right now are enjoying something they haven’t had since Kobe and Shaq’s first championship year: chemistry.

    I would rather small forward be played by committee than by someone who disrupts that.

  12. Basketballogy Says:

    Oo! Would Battier be a dream come true!

  13. A-Train Says:

    Basketballogy–

    Based on what I’ve seen from you thus far, I think you’re someone of sound mind. And I agree with a lot of what you say, but I think you’re so wrong in your comments about the Gasol trade.

    1. 95% of all foreign players are utter garbage–in the the context of the NBA game. Out of all the foreign players who’ve entered the NBA the past 20 years, how many of them have actually been more than a role player? Think about that. I’ll give you Dirk and Yao, and even Ginobili, and maybe Gasol, and the rest have been somewhere between Nikolai Tskitishvilli (scrubs) and Peja Stojakovic (good role players). So to think Marc Gasol will be special, let alone starter’s material (I think he’ll be a serviceable 20-minutes per night big body off the bench), is a stretch. The odds are much greater his name will make a little noise, he’ll get some minutes, get a little hype, and then disappear.

    2. Javaris Crittendon has done absolutely zero in the NBA. He hasn’t even shown yet he’s going to stick in the NBA. These draft picks come and go–especially the past ten years. We get a little excited because it’s something new. But guess what, next year, there will be another Javaris Crittendon drafted, and then another the year after. Where’s Julius Hodge? Where’s Kirk Snyder? Josh McRoberts will be out the NBA before you know it. You won’t even notice it. So really, until Crittendon does ANYTHING in the NBA, he is what he is, a guy trying out for the league.

    3. Kwame Brown and Aaron McKie were in there solely for money reasons. They were relief. Period. Nobody has any interest in either player.

    4. The two first draft picks the Grizz got are late first round picks. This year with the Lakers 28th pick, the Grizz took Donte Greene. Next year they’ll pick somewhere between 25 and 29 and get another “camp invitee.” Especially in the modern draft, everybody knows the chance of landing an impact player becomes a crapshoot after, maybe, pick number six. Can Green become a good player? Sure. The odds are against it happening, however. It’ll take him a few years to do anything, and by then chances are he’ll be on another team. He’ll be replaced by next year’s 28th pick. It’s all one giant pot luck.

    Now I don’t care for the Lakers, nor do I think Pau Gasol is the second coming of Christ, but the reality is somebody in the Grizzlies organization doesn’t know what he’s doing.

    They had a young–albeit injury-prone–and mobile 7-footer who proved he could be a 18-and-8 guy in the league. Those are hard to come by, and most teams in the league would have interest in getting him.

    They traded a proven 18-and-8 center for expiring contracts, an unproven rookie in Crittendon (19th pick in 2007), another unproven rookie who has never stepped foot on an NBA court in Gasol (48th pick in 2007), and two end-of-first round picks.

    To recap: The Lakers got Pau Gasol for expiring contracts and four draft picks, numbers 19, 28, 28(?) and 48.

    That, my friend, is fleecing. I’ll bet you a testicle three of the four players the Grizz got are out of the NBA in three years. The one that sticks will be an 8th man, at best.

    The Grizz could have shipped Gasol to the Hawks for a Josh Smith-caliber player. Hell, even if they just dealt Gasol straight up for a top-five lottery pick (some team would have made that deal without a doubt). Instead they traded a sure thing for more-than-likely-will-never-will-be’s.

    Will go down as one of the most ridiculous trades in NBA history.

    I mean, already, look at what happened. The Lakers went to the Finals. And the Grizz? They tanked and got another draft pick. Are the Grizz going to be improved this year? How about the year after? Maybe, if all goes well, the Grizz return to the playoffs in 2011 or 2012. Meanwhile, the Lakers will keep making runs at the title.

  14. Hoffman Says:

    A-Train,

    I said Artest was one of a handful of players (Kobe, Duncan, KG) that can dominate a game on both ends. I didn’t say that he does. I said he was capable of it. And I believe he is. Artest averaged 21 points per game last year on 45% from the field. That’s fairly impressive.

    Those four players — in my opinion — are the only four who are truly capable of dominating a game on both ends.

    He’s a matchup nightmare with his size and his quickness. He just needs to be utilized correctly.

    Ruben Patterson is a headcase. The Lakers had him on their roster before and he never got off the bench. Battier would be a great fit, but I don’t see the Rockets giving him up. Artest is available.

  15. Hoffman Says:

    Basketballogy,

    I share your concerns. Really I do. But I think the it’s worth the risk. I don’t think people realize how good Artest is and what he can bring to the table.

    I agree with everything you wrote about the Gasol trade. The Grizzlies didn’t make the trade to get equal value (obviously). They made the deal for cap room.

    And I don’t blame them. In fact, I wish more teams would make similar deals. The Grizzlies weren’t on a fasttrack to win a title. Gasol’s deal was hurting their financial flexibility. So they blew the ship and and started over. There’s no shame in that.

  16. Basketballogy Says:

    A-Train

    I see your points and you are definitely swaying me.

    Javaris certainly has yet to prove himself, but at least he would have been on the Lakers’ roster when Farmar proved himself flaky in the playoffs. ALSO, I understand that Javaris ran the triangle offense in high school and college. The Lakers’ system isn’t just what he knows best, it is practically all he knows. His defensive chops, athleticism and presence in purple and gold would have been nice as another option against Rondo… even if it turned out to be an ineffective one.

    Also, while I have hinted at this I don’t think I’ve said it right out: Marc Gasol seems to be an outstanding COMPLIMENTARY player, not a go to guy. I think Pao is the same way, and that the Grizzilies are making a mistake by building around either of them as THE man.

    In that respect, I do agree the Grizz might not know what they are doing.

    But Hoff made a good point on this too, A-Train. The Grizz weren’t trying to get players so much as they were cap space for later acqusitions. So if 3 of those guys aren’t in the NBA in a few years, I think they are alright with that.

  17. A-Train Says:

    Absolutely, the Grizz were trying to free up space. But still, you and I both know had they been a but more patient or creative, they could have gotten more in return. They could have at least gotten a “keeper” player in return AND freed up money.

    I praise Donnie Walsh for not doing that ridiculous Zach Randolph trade. I like the Knicks and dislike Randolph, and he simply has to go. But to throw him away from a second round pick is insane. Just to free up the cash? Eh. Someone out there will take on most of the money and give the Knicks something useful in return.

    The Bulls were desperate for a big man. I would have tried to get Deng or Tyrus Thomas. And the Grizz also traded him away to someone in their own conference! I mean, something went wrong here.

    If I need 40 cents in change for the snack machine and nobody is going to give it to me for free, I sure as hell ain’t giving them a dollar in return for that 40 cents and saying, “ah, screw it, I need the 40 cents real bad right now.” That’s what the Grizz did. They traded more for less just because they were impatient.

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