Ron Artest should remain a starter
The gesture sounds humble and forthcoming from Ron Artest.
Lakers fans better hope, however, that his recent suggestion that he may come off the bench next season just reflects his unpredictability. It shouldn't be something Coach Mike Brown seriously considers.
Sure, Artest is coming off a season in which he had a career-low 8.5 points on 39.7% shooting. The team wants to add speed. Brown also wants to hold players more accountable. Barring Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak somehow trading away his three-year, $21.8-million contract, however, Artest should remain in the starting lineup.
It's tempting to insert Lamar Odom to showcase the team's triple-tower lineup with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. That would only slow the Lakers in transition. It's plausible to think Matt Barnes could start at small forward should he restore the consistency he displayed last season before suffering a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee. But no one can know for sure how long it will take Barnes to restore his full rhythm after a prolonged rehab. And in both instances, the Lakers would lose the lockdown defense Artest usually provides.
It's nice that Artest publicly says he's OK with a demotion since it appeared his fragile psyche last season wouldn't have handled it well. There are better ways, though, to hold him accountable. Erratic shooting nights should prompt teammates not to pass him the ball. A drop-off in defense should also cause Brown to give Artest less playing time. Doing that by yanking his starting position, however, takes away Artest's chance to set the tone defensively.
With how much Brown's system emphasizes defense, it's integral that Artest starts. With how much the Lakers lacked consistency on defense, it's important the Lakers' most able defensive player starts to maximize his improvement. And considering how much the Lakers' problems were exacerbated by his absence while serving a one-game suspension in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks, it's obvious there's no use experimenting with Artest.
Clearly, as many Lakers fans very well know, Brown shouldn't consider Artest's willingness to accept a bench role seriously. For he doesn't always know what he speaks.
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