Dissecting Ron Artest's shooting against Golden State
Two things that often irk Ron Artest: When he fields questions that he feels aren't fully thought out and researched, and when he's asked about a shooting slump. But even with the Lakers storming out to a 3-0 record, this period marks one of those times, as Artest has begun the season having made only 10 of 40 field-goal attempts (25%), and five for 18 from three-point range (27.8%).
When Artest began the season opener last week against Houston with eight points on three-for-15 shooting, I thought little of it because I saw plenty of hustle plays and quality work within the triangle offense and, really, it's just one game. When Artest scored 14 points on five-for-14 shooting against Phoenix, I overlooked some of the missed midrange jumpers because his three-for-eight clip from downtown looked pretty impressive. But when I saw him score only six points on two-for-11 shooting Sunday in the Lakers' 107-83 win over the Golden State Warriors, I started to wonder.
It's only three game, and I recognize there are 79 more to go, but I remain puzzled by Artest's diminished shooting touch because of his impressive preseason performances, and because he doesn't appear as lost in the triangle as he was last season. That's the main point he emphasized to me after the Lakers' win Sunday, but there's no doubt he wants to fix it, as indicated by his extra shooting following Monday's practice.
"When you see Ron over there practicing two-dribble step-back fadeaway jumpers from the elbow . . ." a reporter began to ask Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who then interrupted.
"Do I cringe?" Jackson asked, smiling. "Ron is an unusual shooter. He takes unusual shots. . . . Ron is a guy you gently lean toward coaching. You don't really push him in the pan and close the door."
"A lot of people have come through in bad shooting nights and come through in the big games," Artest said, and that certainly applied last season to Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and to Artest himself. "Come playoffs, if you shoot bad but you come through every round and hit big shots in big games. Everybody else is trying to make it out there and try to keep playing."
Artest is certainly correct in that respect, and I give him credit for refusing to allow missed shots to derail his confidence and hustle, particularly on the defensive end. But I found it still necessary to rewatch the tape against Golden State simply to get a better idea of what's ailing Artest thus far. Even if Artest isn't the main option on offense, he'll eventually have to correct those numbers when the stakes become higher. Below are the results after the jump.
First quarter, 6:38 - 6:34:With Lakers forward Lamar Odom manning the ball up top, Artest cut up toward the right block and received a pass. After Odom cut down to set a screen for him on Dorell Wright, Artest dribbled right and pulled up for a jumper along the free-throw line. Artest could've found Odom as he rolled to the basket against David Lee, but I don't exactly fault Artest for taking the shot. He was open and it was a good look. His form didn't look the greatest. Although Artest had great form and elevation, he wasn't completely squared up to the basket.
First quarter, 4:46 - 4:41:Odom penetrated baseline and fed Artest a quick pass out to the far corner. Artest looked completely balanced, but his well-timed shot hit off the front rim.
First quarter, 3:54 - 3:50: After Warriors forward Reggie Williams missed a top-of-the key three-point attempt, Artest grabbed the long rebound, drove the ball up the floor and settled for a near-side three-point try. This is one of those shots that Artest needs to avoid. There's plenty of time to set up the triangle and look for a better shot.
Third quarter, 9:00 - 8:40: Odom grabbed a rebound off Brandan Wright's missed three-point shot and brought the ball up the floor. He passed to Artest on the far side and Artest took a three-point shot since he had space on the break, but the ball hit the back rim. Even though Artest had an open look, he had passed up a chance to make an entry pass to Bryant in the post. Kobe didn't hold a grudge, though. After Pau Gasol grabbed the offensive rebound off Artest's miss and kicked the ball out to Bryant on the near side, Artest cut into the lane and posted up Lee, and Bryant then fed him an entry pass. Artest took one dribble and pulled up for a left-handed layup. Another good look for Artest, but he didn't angle himself properly.
Third quarter, 3:09 - 3:14: Golden State tried to use double teams to create a turnover. But the effort on both Bryant and Odom didn't work. Bryant fought through it by passing to Odom at the left block. Odom fought through by passing to Artest on the far corner. Instead of passing the ball back to Odom up top, Artest took a single dribble and pulled up for an off-balance three-point shot.
Fourth quarter, 11:10 - 11:06: After Matt Barnes fed an entry pass to Gasol in the far post, Barnes set a down screen on the other side for Artest, who curled around and received a pass from Gasol. Artest went in for the layup, but his poor angling toward the basket resulted in a missed shot. On the next play down, Artest passed up an open shot in the lane and fed the ball instead to Shannon Brown along the baseline before the Lakers restarted the offense.
Fourth quarter, 9:55 - 9:48: The following play epitomized team basketball. After grabbing a one-handed rebound, Brown fired an outlet pass on the far side to Barnes, who one-timed it on the other side to Steve Blake, who then set up Artest in the middle of the paint. Artest laid it in for the basket.
Fourth quarter, 7:55 - 7:50:With Gasol posting up on the near side, he found Artest open a sliver below the free-throw line. He pulled up for a fall-away jumper, but the shot hit off the back rim. Artest could've driven the lane and at least created a double-team to open up an outside shot for someone else. Artest made up for it defensively on the next possession, however, swiping away Rodney Carney's pass and converting the fastbreak layup.
Fourth quarter, 7:02 - 6:58:After posting up Gasol on the far end, Blake set a down screen on Wright, giving Artest open space to move to the far-side perimeter. Immediately after receiving the pass from Gasol, Artest fired a three-pointer. As soon as Artest missed the shot, Lakers announcer Joel Meyers remarked, "He's going to work his way out of it." Then analyst Stu Lantz answered, "You don't get out of your shooting slump by not shooting. You have to be more selective with your shots. The only way to get out of a shooting slump is to start making some shots."
What it means:Artest no longer stands idly in the corner, afraid that any movement will disrupt the triangle. He's no longer running around aimlessly, either, resulting in off-balance shots. While some of Artest's shots fall into the "Ron should never be taking these shots" category, most of the misses point to poor shooting mechanics, ranging from improper balance to lift and angle of the shot. That's something that can be easily corrected, although it can take time through repetition and comfort. The Lakers can manage it.
Photo: Golden State guard Monta Ellis makes his way around Lakers forward Ron Artest during the Lakers' 107-83 victory Sunday. Credit: Lori Shepler/Associated Press