Ron Artest, one assumes, is among the 63% contingent
When it comes to feeling confident about Ron Artest in purple and gold, 19% of our readership feels worse about the newest Laker two games into the season than they did when he inked the deal. Granted, that was before last night's win over Atlanta and Artest's locking down of Joe Johnson, but given how our readership collectively experiences game to game mood swings rivaling those of a teenage girl (no offense, but you know it's true), I imagine that figure will remain relatively accurate this morning. Particularly when compared to swapped out ex-Laker Trevor Ariza, whose most recent effort against the Portland Trail Blazers netted an impressive 33 points on an even more impressive 11-17 shooting clip. As ESPN's JA Adande has also noticed, Artest's slow start has naturally sparked some "buyer's remorse" comparison shopping for some Lakers fans, but for what it's worth, Ron Ron isn't concerned concerned about what TA is doing for his old team.
"He had 33?" asked Artest with a surprised tone. Then came a grin. "That's great. I didn't know he could score 30." Artest went on to express happiness for Ariza's big night and wished him a 20 ppg season, but reiterated his credo since arriving in Los Angeles: Points aren't his concern.
"I don't care about that. I had my days when I was taking all the shots. Drawing all the double teams and triple teams and all that stuff. This year, all I have to do is make the pass. I don't want to score 30. I don't want to even have to score 12. I don't care. I'll let Kobe (Bryant), (Pau) Gasol, (Andrew) Bynum, (who) wants to be an All-Star. I'll let those guys score those points."
To some degree, I imagine Artest doesn't care at this very moment because, whether he'll admit it or not, he still doesn't look completely at ease in his new system. Thus, a foundation needs to be prioritized before you can worry about slapping the shiniest, snazziest, most funkariffic coat of paint on a building. But assuming a comfort zone is discovered- and I assume it will be, based on the intuitiveness for playmaking I alluded to later in the video- there will come a point where Artest is more assertive looking for his shot. Some days, that will mean fifteen shots, maybe even a few more. Others, we're looking at seven (hopefully) well chosen chucks. And most days, I imagine it'll be somewhere in the middle. And honestly, Artest shouldn't be sweating his points, because on a team this loaded, 20+ is not only unnecessary, trying to get it could cause more problems than it solves.
Thus, I look at Artest's theoretical point drop similar to how I've typically judged Lamar Odom's role in the offense. The games where he puts up only a handful of shots over 30+ minutes tend to be problematic to me. But if he's remaining a viable scoring threat that needs to be accounted for but is willing to set up his mates? No worries. If that's how it's going to be with Artest, I'm also good. I've never been one to equate "aggressiveness" as code for "looking to score as many points as possible." You can play a very aggressive game, one that drastically impacts the contest's complexion, without being obsessed with filling up the nets. You just need to be decisive and playing with purpose.
Also, for those comparing Ariza and Artest, it's worth noting that TA is undoubtedly at a decided advantage over Ron while learning a new system and teammates. He's got a "greener than key lime pie in a Riddler suit" green light on the O, as opposed to Artest, who's balling with Kobe and Drew and needs to pick his spots more judiciously. That bumps Ariza's odds for profilic outputs. Opposing teams also have no reference point when it comes to defending Ariza as a focal point, so they're learning about Trevor as we go. In the meantime, Artest is a much more established and therefore scouted commodity. I'm not downplaying Ariza's accomplishments. Yes, I've gone on record predicting struggles upon seeing more double teams and being asked to do more, but I like TA as a person and, all things being equal and monetarily sensible, never wanted him to leave in the first place. I'm plenty happy to see him blossom, even if it means I was wrong and underestimated him. But either way, those differences between TA and Ron Ron's situations should be acknowledged.
Oh, and a little cinematography lesson learned at the clip's start. Those with a tendency to talk with their hands are often very bad candidates to film an interview using a hand held camera. Unless, of course, you're a fan of loop the loops for no particular reason. Well played, AK. Well played.
(Photo: Ron Artest vs. the Dallas Mavericks, Credit Christine Cotter, LAT)