Ron Artest: A discussion
BK and I decided to talk a little "Ron Ron to L.A." using the instant message platform the kids seem to love these days. Some point-counterpoint, but in a nutshell, we both can picture this working out well. However, it will require some adjustment on Ron Artest's part. This would be a copy of the transcript.
AK: "So... We're in the Ron Artest business now."
BK: Yep. Not that there's ever a dull moment in Laker Land... but Dr. Buss and Co. basically removed the word from the local vernacular completely. So how do you feel about it?
AK: I think I like it. Like we talked about on today's PodKast, I'm aware of the potential issues.
BK: Nice plug.
BK: Whores. That's what we are. Just say it.
AK: Besides, it's getting buried because "the Lakers want to sign players and build the roster." Selfish bastards. But like we discussed in the... 710 ESPN PodKast (wink!), I do think if Artest buys in, you're looking at an upgrade on both sides of the ball. He's a better on ball defender than Trevor Ariza and even more versatile. Aside from being able to check the 1, 2, and 3 like Trevor, Artest can even body a four. If an opponent goes small, he could probably hang with certain centers
For all the talk about how big LeBron is, I'm always stunned whenever I see Artest in person. No matter how many times I've been around him, it's still impressive how much he resembles a middle linebacker.
BK: Oh yeah. He's heavier than Gasol, despite being what, six inches shorter? That's why he wears the slightly shorter, tighter shorts, I think. It's the equivalent of D. Howard not owning a shirt.
AK: Remember Charles Mann, the Redskins linebacker? That's basically Artest.
BK: He was shaped like a triangle.
AK: Kinda like Ron Ron. And offensively, he's got more pure skills than Trevor. He's much better equipped to create his own shot, and because of said bulk, can post dudes up. And despite the improvement by Ariza from outside, Ron is still the more proven (and steadily improving) three point shooter.
I feel your "however" coming...
BK: Sure. While I'm warming up to the signing and love the terms- $18 mil over three years- there are some things to wonder, if not worry, about. That Artest is a better player than Ariza isn't the question. He is. But is he a better fit?
That was a rhetorical question.
AK: Like how many angels fit on the head of a pin? Or how many roads must a man walk down...
BK: Or babies in a tire.
Artest is a great fit defensively, like you mention, but on the other end all the stuff I didn't like when we we/the Lakers were debating bringing him in for Lamar Odom in a trade over the last two seasons still apply, even though I assume the Lakers will now not be letting Odom get away, which obviously matters.
AK: I'd be shocked if they don't bring back Lamar. That feels like a given now.
BK: Right. As well it should be. But Artest likes to shoot. A lot. He likes to be a big part of an offense. He hasn't averaged fewer than 14.8 shots a night since 2002. Last year, Ariza averaged just over seven.
And shot selection/ball movement aren't exactly Artest's strengths. He's a pretty good passer when he remembers to move the ball, but it often sticks in his hands. Last I checked, the triangle suffers sticking.
AK: Does your opinion change at all knowing that, as the season carried on, Trevor averaged eight shots, as opposed to seven?
BK: I should pay closer attention to the splits.
AK: No, I hear what you're saying. The onus is on Ron to exercise self control, a sentence a little scary to just type, much less plan around. He'll have to reshape his mentality.
BK: And his efficiency. In terms of both true shooting percentage and equivalent field goal percentage, Ariza was actually better than Artest last year. Some of that comes from playing in a better offense with better dudes around him, but some of it is reflective of Artest's shot choices.
AK: I think it's both. Some of it may also be the result of Artest at times being their #1 option due to injury, but not really being the ideal #1 option.
BK: And given how efficient LA's bigs can be, and the effectiveness of Kobe Bryant (you know, that guy), you'd hate to see Artest suck shots away from those guys. He's going to have to give up a lot of his offensive mentality. Plus learn the offense. There's always that.
AK: Stick with the established championship formula: Only Kobe is allowed to suck away shots from the efficient bigs. I kid you, people!!! I kid!!!
BK: All I'm saying is that Artest, over the course of his career, has tended to think he's a better offensive player than he is. He's good, but not top shelf on that end. The good news is that, like you say, for four years his three point percentage has trended up. As many big threes as TA made in the Finals, Artest, at least on his resume, is a better shooter, which is good because he doesn't finish at the rim nearly as often as Ariza (12% of TA's makes were dunks, vs. 1% for RA, for example... and yes, I had to look that up.)
AK: Yep. Bottom line, you signing off on this or not?
BK: I am, if Artest is willing to play the role LA will need him to play. That's the biggest worry I have. He's a better player than Ariza, but is more a star talent than TA, too. The Lakers had a great balance last year, where everyone was familiar with his gig and willing to perform his role. Will Artest do that? Sometimes more talent doesn't make a team better.
He seems awfully eager to fit in and win a ring, that's for sure. It's an encouraging start.
AK: Dude's in Twitter heaven right now. I haven't seen him this stoked since the last time he had a CD dropping.
BK: Oh yeah. And every writer in LA is popping a cork. And the good news is, even if he gums up the O for a while, putting him on the other side of the ball with Kobe, Pau, Bynum, and LO (in whatever combination) might make it impossible to score on the Lakers anyway. They have the potential to be an outstanding defensive team next year, and they were pretty good this season already.
AK: If it's the three years reported, that in and of itself is a major feather in the cap. Not having to devote five years to a role player (which Ariza is, albeit a valuable one) is always nice.
BK: I agree. Initially, I think Artest will be so motivated to do the right thing, he might not shoot at all. Even dunks.
BK: Like I said, know your role.
AK: One of his roles, thankfully, will be providing major quotage on a daily basis. On this level, I don't think it's even possible to quantify the upgrade he represents over Trevor.
BK: Oh yeah. TA was a great quote, until you had to start quoting him. Then he sucked. Drove me nuts.
AK: Artest is nothing if not fantastic for our particular line of work.
BK: Like I said, obviously it could work, and let's say that Cleveland/LA matchup everyone seemed to want in this year's Finals happens next? It'll be handy to have Artest around to mark LBJ. Overall, just having Artest's defensive abilities will take a lot of pressure off Kobe on that side of the ball. That's a plus.
AK: But will the league, David Stern and ABC allow Ron to check LeBron, since the most drama gets squeezed from Kobe guarding him the entire time? And vice versa? I wouldn't be shocked if they didn't allow switches during possessions.
BK: Maybe, maybe not. But PJ always defies authority anyway.
Photo: Ron Artest shoots a jumper over Pau Gasol. Photo: Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America
Photo: Ron Artest and Trevor Ariza: Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America
Photo: Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest jaw at each other. Credit: