Ron Artest will be a Laker come July 8 (nothing can be finalized until then, just as a caution). And he comes at a very good price — three years of the mid-level exception. Or three for essentially $18 million. Although some suggest it will be the full five years ($32 mil). That is basically what Trevor Ariza would have cost. (Ariza apparently has an offer from Houston.)
This is the definition of a high risk, high reward move. I’ve got a lot of thoughts.
• I have led the “No on Artest” camp in these parts, but now to me the question is can a combination of Kobe and Phil Jackson keep him playing within his role. As has been said, the question is not “could” he fit in the triangle offense but “would” he. I have serious concerns here, but if he just plays balls out defense, intimidates a little, hits threes (in the rhythm of the offense) and posts guys up when mismatched, we will be fine. The question is will he just do that?
• If Phil Jackson can keep him in line, great. What about the next coach?
• He gives us another guy that can post up — Bynum, Gasol, Kobe, Artest, Odom are all big guys who can post up smaller guys, a tough matchup.
• Artest will be great as a perimeter defender on twos and threes. But the Lakers at times used Ariza on PGs, Artest is not that quick. This puts more pressure on Fisher, Farmar and (if they sign him) Brown to be stoppers.
• He can shoot the three — 40% this season, 38% last season. And he will get a lot more open looks now (if he plays within the system).
• I dare you to call the Lakers soft now.
• That is one thing that Artest brings — intimidation. Not just physically, but because you just don’t know what he is going to do at any given moment, and that is scary. And can win you games.
• Will Kobe and Artest have a “who can get the most technicals” competition next season?
• Every game we will get to ask: What has Ron-Ron carved into his hair tonight?
• Does anyone else have the feeling part of the Lakers looking at Artest was not wanting to deal with the public negotiations of Ariza agent David Lee? They put up with him in the Bynum case because there were no other options — young guys with Bynum’s potential are rare. But quality swingmen who want to be on a contender are more common. Lee tried to get the most for his client, but he negotiates in a very public way and the Lakers are a very private team (in terms of front office dealings).
• I feel bad for Ariza — although I’m not sure if he feels bad. I get that this was his first big kick at the can and he wanted to get paid. But once Portland signs Hedo, the only team that can offer him more than the MLE is Toronto, and they’d have to waive the rights to Marion to do it. The market is set for Ariza, and he may even have trouble getting the full MLE now as teams don’t think they have competition. And he has to leave LA, his hometown. I’m not sure how he feels, but a part of him has to be sad. And I feel for him, we really grew to love him as a player.