Rather than one of my standard previews of tonightâ€™s game against Sacramento, Iâ€™m giving some space to Tom Z., the guy behind the Sactown Royalty blog (one of the best NBA blogs out there) to talk about what the addition of Ron Artest has meant to the Kings (besides 7 wins in the last 10). Iâ€™ll add a couple of thoughts afterward about tonight (and, in the unlikely event of a Laker trade, Iâ€™ll break in with a new post).
Right now, I can count six things that Ron Artest has brought with him to Sacramento. In a uncreative list format, here they are:
- Obviously, a top-three defender. His astute ability to deny the ball, deny the floor position, deny the easy shot to the best opposing swing player has been well-reviewed, and it’s honestly what distinguishes Ron-Ron from every other Joe 20-Point Scorer out there.
- A reliable offensive threat. His first step is actually stunning. In a game against Utah, Artest blew by Andrei Kirilenko from the left wing so easily that I literally had to pause the game to collect myself. He’s known as a post-up type, but he has driven at will against most opponents and hits the open three almost as consistently as Mike Bibby. And Lakers fans know all about Mike Bibby from three.
- Instant leadership. Yeah, Ron Artest is the clear leader of this team. It was such a vacuum before, with quiet guys like Peja, Shareef, Brad Miller and Bibby as the stars and louder types like Bonzi Wells trying to push for a last-chance multi-year deal on the basis of being a reformed team-first guy. Ron is trying to rehab himself, but he is innately competitive to a point that he refuses to let the team slink away from a challenge. Note that other than the cold-shooting quarter in Utah, the Kings haven’t been embarrassed in the Artest era.
- The Brad Miller of old. Remember when B-52 was inciting Shaq to throw punches and generally be a redneck asshole? Well, we haven’t gotten that piece of the deal in Sacramento. Until now. Reunited with his old mischievous pal, The Congressman is back to hassling bitches, pushing hoes and causing mayhem in the middle. Also, instead of whining to the refs constantly, he accepts his fouls and gets his money’s worth.
- A resuscitation of the Sacramento scene. Honestly, the Sac State groupie crew was probably getting sick of chasing down Peja and Bibby. Ron-Ron and his posse provide plenty of fresh blood. R.E. Graswich’s career as a metro columnist has literally been rejuvenated. Graswich was struggling to dig up any dirt on Bibby’s Team Dime this preseason. Now? Three items a week on Artest and Company. Absolutely fantastic for sports fans.
- Pure, unadulterated energy. He’s like Brian Cardinal on meth. He shouldn’t be – he’s one of the best players in the league! Doesn’t he know he’s not required to leap into the camera pit or hit the floor for a stray ball? And, my God, the fist pumps! He’s so excited on the court that he has zero ability to act cool and pimp-like when making a killer play. So, like Tiger Woods, he just bursts out in uncontrollably uncool gestures, like double fist pumps, handclap-hop combinations and the ballyhooed audible Marv Albert impersonation (“YESSS!”, especially effective after an And-1). Kings fans love that sort of raw excitement crap – hell, we bang cowbells for fun! I can’t believe no one realized a passionate guy like Ron-Ron and passionate fans like the Cowbell Kingdom were perfect for each other. Essentially perfect.
In sum, we like Ron not despite his crazy, but because of his crazy. Long live Sacronmento!
Great stuff. Two things from me:
Reasons Iâ€™m rooting for Sasha Cohen tonight: Other than the obviously prurient interest reasons, she and I also share an idol.
Cohen hopes that her best is yet to come, and she credited a book by John Wooden with revising her perspective on skating and life.
“You can’t live in the past and you can’t live in the future, but the present and what you do now can have an effect on the future,” she said. “And that’s what I’m trying is, really, to stay in the moment.”
Keyâ€™s to a Laker win: If one team is going to jump up into the top eight in the West before the season is out, I think the new-look Kings are the primary candidates.
Nobody stops Kobe, but Artest will slow him. That means four things: 1) Kobe canâ€™t get frustrated and try to out-macho Artest and try to beat him every time down to prove a point; 2) Lamar Odom is going to have to take a big role in the offense, like he did against Portland â€“ the book on him has become to lay off him and dare him to shoot from the outside, he needs to take that shot and hit it; 3) Brian Cook, Smush (a +23 against Portland) and others will have to step up; 4) As has been the case for a while, the Lakers are going to have to play good defense to win. They did that against Portland, but that was Portland. This is a good team.
And this is the kind of team the Lakers need to beat if they are going to make the playoffs.