How Do You Fit Artest Into A Triangle?

Kurt —  September 23, 2009

Ron Artest with the LA Lakers
Ron Artest’s “blame me” statement was a great bit of PR/playing to the fans. And it worked. It got front-page play in a bunch of newspapers and now Bill Plaschke is on board with Ron Ron (so we can all rest easy).

But let’s be clear — if the Lakers don’t win the title next year it probably won’t be Ron Artest’s fault. I wasn’t a huge fan of bringing Artest here and yet I can come up with a dozen scenarios where Artest plays well and the Lakers don’t win it all. It all seems a bit simplistic, but that still sells.

To me, the larger looming question is how to fit Ron Artest into the Triangle offense. Phil Jackson, in an interview with Matt “Money” Smith (the Laker pre/postgame guy I’m going to miss, no offense Mason) and partner Petros Papadakis, Phil Jackson said he has been thinking about it too. But he didn’t say much else.

“I’ve spent some time thinking about it. Ron has a real knack of being a top defender and an aggressive player on the defensive end of the court…. But we think overall that we probably have a more balanced and difficult team to defend and to score against on this team. I think Ron’s going to be a really big addition to this team. Not only defensively, but he can do some things offensively that’ll be able to help our team and people will be surprised.”

The best breakdown I’ve seen so far comes from Wilt in the blog over at Lakersground, and this is really a must read. His basic premise is that Artest needs to play the three spot out on the perimeter in the offense.

Artest’s main spots in the offense will be the wing and the two-guard front. Given that Chicago’s version of the Triangle did not have as many options, the Lakers will probably put Artest primarily on the wing position, which requires less reading and initiating. Thus, Kobe and Fisher will be the primary ball handlers in halfcourt, while Artest will be expected to execute the initial post entry pass.

(Describing one Triangle option) As a wing, Artest’s (O3) first option is to pass to the post, establishing the deepest penetration possible. Here, he passes to Gasol or Bynum (O5) and then sets a screen for Kobe (O2) at the top of the key. Artest is a very quick cutter and can seal off his man very effectively due to his strength. In this instance, D3 and D2 are confused about how to defend the top screen, leaving Artest just enough room to cut to the basket for a precise pass from the center.

Read the whole post, there’s a lot of truth in it (and it comes with great graphics). First, Artest really doesn’t have the handles to initiate the offense, that role will be largely Kobe and Fisher (I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Phil give the “Odom as point forward” thing another go as well). But asking Artest to make the post entry pass to the low block from the wing, then have him set the screen and cut to the basket, is a good fit for him (he is a good passer when he chooses to be).

What I think you are going to see a lot of is when Artest comes from the weak to strong side to establish position on the low block (likely getting his post pass from Gasol/Odom, or maybe Kobe/Fish). If not that, there are countless ways you can establish him down low, including running the high-low action with Gasol in the high post that was effective with Bynum the first half of last season. With Artest playing the three, and with other teams will have to but their best perimeter defender on Kobe, Artest will have mismatches he can exploit, particularly on the block.

One thing that will be different with Artest is where he will line up to shoot the three when the ball does go to Gasol/Bynum on the block. Traditionally the three in the triangle gets the ball in the corner for the three, but Artest is not a strong corner three shooter (just 31% from there last year, from the wings and straight on he shot better than 40% from every slop on the floor). If there is one thing Phil Jackson does better than any coach right now (besides cell-phone commercials) is put players in positions where they can succeed, and give them confidence to make their plays.

Artest’s game is actually fairly cerebral, he just has moments where he abandons that and tries to take over on both ends. With this lineup, he doesn’t have to, and intellectually he knows that. There may be a couple moments where his competitiveness gets the better of him early in the season, but look for Kobe/Gasol/Jackson to curb that impulse quickly. With the lineup the Lakers are throwing out there, mismatches will be created for someone every night. So long as the Lakers attack those mismatches, and everyone buys into that system and the offense, the Lakers will be hard to beat. And even Plaschke will be right.

Kurt

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104 responses to How Do You Fit Artest Into A Triangle?

  1. great read as always, kurt

  2. if anything, Ron really knows how to play basketball . . . and the great thing is that he always brings an effort every game! I think the real effect RonRon brings is the toughness people claimed the Lakers were missing . . Drew and Pau are going to stand up a lil taller and flex a lil harder knowing they got the craziest bully in the league backing them up . . .

  3. Alright… this is why they pay Kurt the big bucks… finally… in depth basketball posts.

  4. The big reason Phil has long coveted Artest is because he thinks he can help facilitate the offense because Ron has “guard” skills allowing Kobe to play the wing spot in the offense somewhere he can better attack from. It was also help save Kobe some energy. So I think we will see Artest play more at “guard” in the triangle. I disagree with Wilt there. Overall the triangle will run even better because you substitute a player in Ariza who didn’t have ball handling or passing skills for a player in Artest who can actually dribble and pass a basketball. Joking aside… one of Artest’s strengths is his visions and passing something that is overlooked because he is so muscular and throws his body around so well.

  5. reading this after all the odom wedding fluff was like…. well… I feel reborn again!

    hallelujah! let’s go lakers!!!

  6. Well, I’m not going to do what I’ve always done and trust the Zen Master, he’s come through 10 times already after all.

  7. The concerns about Artest being a bad cog in the offensive machine are overblown for one key reason: he won’t be a primary ballhandler with this team.

    Fisher, Kobe, Farmar and/or Odom will bring the ball upcourt in the half-court sets. Artest won’t touch the ball unless one of them passes it his way. If there are times when the team gets the sense that he’s trying to be the One Man Show, I suspect the ball will stop swinging his way until he gets back in line.

    Yes, there will be some instances in which the ball will go into his hands and stop as he tries to bull his way to the rim. But I honestly think those will be exceptions, not the norm.

    Artest could realistically be the team’s fifth-best scoring option on the floor at any given moment, so there’s no reason to work the offense through him unless he’s in position to make something good happen. L.A. isn’t Houston or Sacramento, where players were looking to Artest as a key scorer.

  8. 4 – I’m not so sure. I agree more with Kurt, I don’t think Artest has the handle to play a primary facilitator role in the offense. He’s not Pippen on the offensive side of the ball, not even close.

  9. i watched game6 of the wcf again the other night and something i noticed was how much the lakers pounded the ball into the low block. to gasol, to bynum, to kobe, to lamar, even to luke…again and again, the ball went inside and from there, the entire floor opened up.

    with artest, we get yet another player we can put down in the low post and pound the middle of our opponents. the versatility of having yet another player on the squad that can post up their defender is huge.

    and despite trevor’s amazing run in the playoffs, his shot was never really there in the regular season. teams could double off of him and only in the playoffs did trevor punish them for leaving him open. this year, with artest, teams will have a tough time finding players to double off of. seriously, however phil chooses to play artest, our opponents will have their hands full.

    oh, and one final note, last year, at the end of the first qtr or the start of the 2nd, pau would usually stay out on the court with lamar to help balance out the 2nd unit, therefore loggin a lot of minutes. this year, with artest, phil will have the option of resting pau and kobe and letting artest and lamar lead the second unit, then when artest needs a rest, kobe can come back in.

    again, ridiculous versatility. i loved this acquisition. can’t wait til the season starts.

    go lakers!

  10. It’s gonna be a circus.

  11. I can’t wait to see the “Mammoth” lineup against a small team: Kobe at the lead guard, Artest at the 2, and Odom, Gasol and Bynum in the frontcourt.

    It probably won’t work for extended periods of time, but against a team like the Spurs with a Parker/Ginobili/Jefferson/Duncan/Ratliff lineup, the only spot you don’t have a clear advantage is at the 4, and Gasol vs. Duncan is fairly close to a wash these days, with Timmy’s mileage and Gasol’s apparent ascendancy over couple of years.

    For a team like the Suns where that much size might pose an issue in running the floor (though Gasol and Odom move very well for bigs), switch out Bynum for Walton. He’s not as much of an offensive threat, but his passing and facilitation greases up the offense in key spots. And against a Magic-like team, you can switch 1-4 defensively and not give up a whole lot anywhere.

  12. What is going to happen to Matt “Money” Smith? Is he leaving?

  13. Lakers broadcasts are moving to 710 ESPN next year, Money’s staying at 570. It’s a shame, he’s a fantastic pre/postgame host.

    But I guess the plus side is that PMS won’t get interrupted by Laker games anymore. Of course, you can only listen to one at a time.

  14. Is there any evidence that Artest is not legitimately insane?

  15. 14. Are you asking us to prove a negative?

  16. I’ve said this before, but Ron should/could be an excellent player for us just by executing the same things for us that Luke Walton does. When you look at the diagrams in the post that Kurt linked to, you see (essentially) Walton’s role. Post entries, cuts to the baseline and middle for pin down post ups, penetration off hand-offs where size and strength is used to bull into the lane for point blank looks, and cuts off screens from strong to weak side for post ups off ball reversals. Based off Ron’s skill set and “game” he should be able to perform all of these duties quite well. And because he’s a pretty good spot up shooter and a good enough ball handler in the half court (I’m not talking about the ball handling the “initiator” would provide), Ron should also be the beneficiary of good looks off the double teams that Kobe and Gasol receive while also having ample opportunities to create looks off the dribble against a scrambling defense.

    Plus, and this wasn’t mentioned in the other post, I also expect Ron to start in different offensive positions on the floor than just the #2 or #3 spot. There will be times where he sets up as the #4 or #5 man and the sets play themselves out the same way that the diagrams show, only Ron will end up getting straight up post isolations against a guy that is not capable of guarding him on the block.

    Look at Diagram #3 for example. Now imagine that Ron starts this set in the position of the #5 man (not that rare considering besides Gasol and Bynum, Kobe, Walton, and Odom have all played in the hub of the Triangle at some point or another). Now imagine after the ball is swung from strong to weak side that none of the initial post passes or passes to the wing are open. At that point, a pass back to the weakside guard could/would be made and Artest would be on the weakside block awaiting a post isolation.

    Ron’s versatility will definitely be an asset next season.

  17. the other Stephen September 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    now this…this is the summer read i have been waiting for. one more month!

  18. 12)
    Matt “Money” Smith was the first broadcaster/host I have listened to that knew the game of basketball almost as well as a coach. The sad thing is he is doing a national show so we won’t be hearing him talking about the Lakers for 5 hours a day anymore either. So its really a double whammy.

  19. Evidence that Ron Artest is not legitimately insane:

    He is not marrying Khloe Kardashian this week.

    He writes musical masterpieces like “Workout.”

    He wants to play for the Lakers.

    …or did you want to prove that he is illegitimately insane? Anyway, you can still use the workout song to prove your point.

  20. BTW, Kurt, thanks for getting my basketball season underway. More X and O posts!

  21. people will be surprised, indeed.

    Nice work, Kurt. Your breakdown is sharp. I see Ron getting lots of easy dunks and delivering the same to his teammates. The Lakers are so good it’s going to be next to impossible to stop them from scoring.

    I can’t wait for October 27.

  22. It seems like Artest should get some time in the mid-post. I know Phil has said in the past that MJ’s big hands helped him be effective in that position. When I say Artest interviewed on SportsCenter the night he decided to sign with the Lakers, I couldn’t help but notice that he had Alaskan king crabs attached to the ends of his arms. Does this bode well for Ron’s ability in the mid-post. And what about the shot charts posted on FB&G a while back that showed how terrible Ron was around the rim. I’d like to say it was context, but the Wages of Wins guys keep telling me it don’t matter.

    Does anyone have any brilliant insight? Maybe a Pacers/Kings/Rockets fan?

  23. This time last year, had we traded LO straight up for Artest, I would have been giddy enough to do backflips. Kenny Thomas was the deal breaker (still under contract at $8.6million per this season!) for that idea.

    Keeping LO and trading Ariza for Artest is too good to be true. I thought for sure that Dr. Buss had to cut LO loose after resigning Bynum to the big deal. Dr. Buss deserves a huge kudos for shelling out serious dough to keep the core of the team together.

    I predict Artest is going to be a true team player this year. He wants to win and he isn’t getting another contract for quite some time. RonRon isn’t going to care about stats for at least this season. He’ll earn more respect by getting wins.

  24. I am not a Pacers/Kings/Rockets fan but I am a NBA fan. I have watched Artest play since he was in Chicago. As soon as the Lakers signed him Kurt worried about his ability or lack their of to fit into the triangle. I immediately replied the worry isn’t with his triangle compatibility… the biggest concern in his athletic ability. You can visually see a big difference in his body from his days as a Pacer. His body fat percentage now is much higher (he still is in great shape) and incidentally his athleticism has taken a step back (he still is a good athlete). That is why you have seen his shooting % around the rim bottom out. As you have seen with Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant as players enter their 30′s they don’t move as well as they did in their early 20′s. Kobe nor Odom finish around the rim as well as they used to.

  25. OK, Aaron… so Artest’s slowed a bit since he was fresh out of St. John’s. For the debate’s sake, let’s agree on that.

    That said, he’s never played with an all-universe scorer like Kobe. He’s never played with someone like Pau, paired with a (hopefully) healthy Bynum and/or Odom.

    When Artest has the ball near the rim, he’s not going to be challenging the other team’s bigs on his own as much as he’s had to elsewhere.

    If the opponent’s big roams over to contest Artest at the rim, he can dish to Pau or dish to Bynum for a dunk. Or those defenders will recognize this and choose to stay closer to their man, thereby lessening Artest’s obstacles to overcome. Bottom line, he’s never had weapons like the Lakers’ surrounding him on the floor.

    Barring injury, the Lakers most-pressing on court weakness next season will be outside shooting. Unless The Machine returns to 2008 form, they just don’t have that solid gunner, which may be an issue on some nights vs. some schemes.

    Yes, PG isn’t as great as some would like, but they overcame that issue last season well enough, and hopefully Farmar can bounce back this year. Lots of options on this season’s roster.

  26. Chris J,
    “the Lakers most-pressing on court weakness next season will be outside shooting”

    More specifically, outside shooting off the bench. Although if Vujacic and Walton can get back to previous form, that will end up being a strength.

  27. All the talk here is about offense, LA will not have to score in the 100′s this year to compete with other teams on any given night. It is the defensive mindset that Artest brings every night that will propel LA to another title. Thats why the FO signed Artest, his addition with the rest of the team picking up from last year on defense, should make them a nightmare. I could care less if he can shoot a three point shoot from any spot on the floor. What Im concerned about is whether he can guard L. James, P. Pierce, C. Anthony, R. Jefferson or any scorer in the league. The answer to that question is simple, check, check, check, check , and double check.

  28. Darius, my thoughts exactly. Artest is like Luke Walton on a triple dose of roids. Assuming he buys into this role, which all signs are pointing to yes, health should be our only potential enemy. We have lost no depth, so not too much foul trouble either.

    I feel like PG defense will be our only obvious weakness, but with our man-zone defense it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. I’ve read Phil is considering more straight up man-to-man, but with the squad we’ll have out there (length and size specifically), I see our help defense strategy working extremely well after a year of getting acclimated. What do you guys think? Our offense will be incredible, but our defense will make us repeating champs.

  29. the other Stephen September 23, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    speaking of point guards and defense, i haven’t heard anything about tony parker in quite a while…

  30. Adam T, Im glad someone else is on the same page about our defense being the key to our success this coming season, not offense. All summer long its been about how Artest will fit in the triangle, and his shortcomings on offense. I compare the signing of Artest with Boston signing KG two years ago. He changed the whole defensive mindset of the team and made them work harder by example and effort on the court. If Artest can have the same type of impact then he is worth his weight in gold.

  31. “I’ve spent some time thinking about it…”

    And the reason is Ron and the Triangle pretty much have to work well as the team’s quick-strike fast break attack has taken a major hit.
    Ariza was a key ingredient to the break and this yr’s team has no speed on the wing w/Artest,Walton or Morrison.

    This yr’s Lakers are going to have to do a lot of half-court grinding it out type games. Of course the team is well equiped to do just that.

  32. DirtySanchez, I second that.

    What Artest brings to the table is a defensive mindset. I feel like we finally have our pit bull, our enforcer if you will.

    The way I see it playing out, is Kobe getting fouled and Artest getting n that person’s face.

    If we made the triangle work with Ariza, as long as Artest complies he should fit in just fine given his wider skillset.

  33. Chris, (25)
    You misunderstood… I think Artest coming to the Lakers is actually an underrated offseason move. He is one of the top SF’s in the game. I was just saying the one concern we should have is his declining athletic ability… not if he will hurt team chemistry or not fir into the triangle. He of course isn’t the same athlete but he is still pretty darn good. The Lakers had to double him every time he touched the ball in the playoffs… and when the help was late he drove by Ariza and dunked it over Gasol.

  34. gsx,
    Different situation,different team,but…
    Artest is held to an extremely strict standard by the refs and got Ts for things no other player would have been T’d for. I can recall at least two techs Ron got for pulling Rocket players AWAY from a confrontation.
    Ron gets in someone’s face and he gets a T at a minimum,if he gets up close,he’s tossed-see Kobe/Ron in last yrs Playoffs.(Also did you see Ron get in Fisher’s face after Fisher shoved Scola? No,because he didn’t.)

  35. I dont think Artest makes a team tougher, its the mental aspect of toughness he brings. Its like the small dude at the bar with his weight lifting friends hanging out. The small dude will start a fight, he knows he cant fight, because he knows he has these big muscle head dudes that have his back. And if all else fails they can at least hold Joe Small back while he talks s***, acting like he wants to fight everybody in the bar.

  36. 34 – Please don’t ever compare Luis Scola to Kobe Bean Bryant even when trying to make a point about crazy beans artest. It doesn’t wash.

  37. I wonder if we’re gonna see instant chemistry between Artest and Odom the way Odom and Gasol clicked.

    Kinda have a feeling that we may be going into a season with a lot of highlight passing plays…

  38. The Lakers basketball blog season has started with a FB&G post like this that is for sure. The Lakers defense will definitely be better this year with the Artest addition. The only thing that worries me about Artest, is injuries, apparently he spends a lot of time unavailable due to injury. I hope I am not jinxing us here, but it is the truth unfortunately, but we have Luuukke, right?

    “The man who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it.” – Woodrow Wilson

  39. I think he fits in well with the triangle because of that little jumper off the elbow it features so much. Artest is really good at hitting that shot. Actually, he’s a very good shooter when his feet are set. His problem is that he tries to a little too much off the dribble, which brings down his overall inefficiency. I suppose he has a habit of breaking off sets that’s a problem too. But overall, because the triangle involves less dribbling than most offenses and will get him the types of shots in areas he can convert effectively, I think the net positive is that he’ll be better than he was before.

    I can see him have a career year percentage-wise. The way Jackson runs the triangle, it’s so unbelievably effective. Most players shoot much higher percentages in it than when they’re away from it, even Kobe. The one year Jackson was away, Kobe had the highest turnover rate of his career and shot his lowest percentage since his first two years in the league. He missed the triangle so much that he asked to have some of it reinstalled even though he had chafed at it before.

    There might be a concern with the volume of shots he’ll take and whether he’ll know his role in the pecking order, that Kobe and Gasol comes before him in the number of shots. But I think the concerns will be misplaced. He’s played with very good players before. At Indiana, he shared shots with Reggie Miller and a big post presence in Jermaine O’Neal. At Houston, he took a back seat to Yao and McGrady in the offense when McGrady was playing.

  40. i am excited to see how shannon brown progresses this year. I think his emergence was one of the reasons that managment let ariza go and signed artest. Mitch has a thing about not having duplicate type playes on a team and i think shannon and ariza are in that mold. With brown we will have that super quick strong body that can gaurd the likes of tony parker and chris paul.

  41. i am so excited for this team!
    seriously, who the hell will be able to beat us this year?!

    it is unbelievable how much talent we have.

    We will win more than 70 games if everyone wants to.

    There should be no stupid losses this year, this team is too good even for that. If one person doesn’t have his shot, he has 4 other guys for backup. It is truly amazing.

  42. Jacqueline,
    Last year there were so many comments – here and on the radio – about 70 wins that it really got pretty silly. Of course injury plus Farmar and Sasha not having career years cured all that.

    Since Ron Ron has had some problem with injury and Bynum needs to make it through an entire season, let’s cool the talk about our win total approaching NBA record status. The 72 win Bulls year was accomplished against an expansion 2nd year, with a weaker league than we now enjoy. Let’s just plan to enjoy this year’s ride – I certainly hope.

  43. DirtySanchez and Adam T,

    These “offense” posts are usually followed by a “defense” post. I’m sure Kurt has that one ready to go today or tomorrow.

    I have no worries that Ron Artest is going to fit well in the offense. He is a very good player. He was very impressive in the Playoffs against us, except when he decided to take over. We all know that that will not even be close to becoming a possibility on this team.

    One thing he will have to do is be better finishing at the rim. Especially if he’s going to make the entry pass to Pau or Andrew. He’s going to have to make the cut to the basket, and get the ball quite often. He has to finish consistently. I also agree with Aaron (#4). I think it’s Artests ability to handle the ball that makes him a more dangerous weapon than Trevor. With Ariza, ti was shoot or open drive to the basket. Which may have been a good thing, but there were times that he seemed not sure what to do when neither option was available and it led to some awkward drives. Not enough to complain about, but Artest’s ability to handle the ball and shoot will force a defender to play on him, and not sag on the post.

    I,too, was a person who was on the “No” bandwagon for Artest the past 2 years. But the terms of getting him meant giving up LO. We got him for nothing this time.

  44. I’m not so sure about Ron Artest having a low-post game. Luke at least has some semblance of a back-to-the-basket repertoire, which he used to great effect against the much smaller Courtney Lee in Game 1 of the Finals. I don’t remember ever seeing Artest actually work with his back to the basket, and his finishing around the rim is questionable. 82games says Artest got 16% of his close shots blocked last season, which was worse than Luke, as bad as Farmar, and close to Fisher and Josh Powell territory. We saw that he was most effective when given space to work against a smaller wing on the perimeter, where he could face up and bull his way to the hoop (jump shots = not good).

    I think so long as his points are limited to receiving passes when moving off the ball, bulling his way to the hoop, and kickouts for a straightaway three, he’ll be fine percentage-wise. If he plays good defense and does those three things on offense, that really seems like the most we could get out of him.

  45. Stephen’s making a good point, one that he’s made for quite some time. Artest’s reputation is mostly reputation at this point. If he even glares at someone the wrong way, he’s getting T’d up. He can’t afford to go around barking all the time like this supposed “pit bull” many of you think we’re getting. He spent much of last year staying out of trouble, and then got ejected twice in the semifinals. That tells me 2 things: 1) his effectiveness as an ‘enforcer’ is limited because he has to be wary of his reputation, which influences the refs, and 2) he doesn’t have the self-control to realize that the playoffs are the absolute worst time to lose your cool and get thrown out.

    Don’t get me wrong, his reputation alone could make a difference with other players (though I doubt it, with the actually tough ones). But don’t expect to see Artest begin each game by breaking skulls open, if you’d like to see him play more than half the games this season.

  46. This isn’t to get political (I have no idea which party this Congressman is affiliated with), but isn’t this a tiny bit sad? He or whoever wrote the letter (a staff member) couldn’t bother to look up the name of one of the most powerful men in sports?
    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/N-J-Congressman-requests-Stern-to-investigate-N;_ylt=A2KIilvSa7tKcn0ASw68vLYF?urn=nba,191614

    Let’s just hope this guy doesn’t become an ambassador and starts sending letters to Coffee Annan.

  47. The thing I like about the Artest move was that it was inevitable that other teams would adjust to Trevor Ariza’s offensive repetoire (shooting 3s, open drive to basket). Honestly, I think TA would have been lucky to score 10 points in the upcoming year. Given that TA would have taken up $33 mil, I don’t know if that would have been a cost effective move if TA’s newfound effectiveness would be affected by other teams’ adjustments.

    With Artest, you absolutely have to game plan him because of his multi-faceted offensive game. I guarantee you that other coaches shudder at the thought of the Lakers’ array of offensive weaponry.

  48. I wanted the Lakers to get Artest when he came back from that big brawl suspension. The Lakers at full strength are better this coming year than they were at any time last year and that means Lebron won’t be playing in Cleveland next year because the championship stays in L.A. You either love Artest or you hate him. He’s a Laker so I love him!

  49. While Ariza had a less diverse and polished offensive game, he remains a far better athlete allowing him to get out on breaks and make plays that Artest cannot. One of my points this year is that the Lakers are going to be a much slower, half-court based offensive team, the starting lineup can run a little but it is not their forte.

    Also, while Artest is a good defender let’s not suddenly decide Ariza was a weak defender — during the playoffs and particularly the finals while on Hedo he got through picks amazingly well and disrupted the Magic’s plan.

    My bottom line is that Artest can make the Lakers better, but it’s not as dramatic as some people think. Also, stop with the 70 win dream please. This league is a lot deeper and the Lakers have a lot more travel (and one more back to back than they had last season) all of which makes that number unreasonable. Personally, I’m on 64 for the year. Which will be about 8 games clear of everyone else in the West.

  50. Maybe I am wrong, but I feel like Artest being on the Lakers with Phil, Kobe & co. will actually give him a little help with the refs. So long as he stays out of trouble for the most part and never snaps on the court, I could see his reputation kind of clearing a bit. Phil won’t tolerate the refs exploiting one of his players, nor will Kobe let a fellow soldier be subject to unfair treatment. Rodman in the late 90s got no benefit of the doubt when it came to technicals, but that was also because he was headbutting opponents and stirring a ruckus even Artest could not rival (Aside from the Palace incident). And even then, Phil still defended Rodman and called out refs.

    Ron will probably get his fair share of technical fouls (just by nature), but the boiling over effect should be mitigated by the Lakers.

  51. By the way, I agree about defense being key, and likely being better this season. However, I’m probably holding off on a defensive post until we see exactly what they are doing and hear comments from PJ after some practices and a couple games.

  52. What is exciting about this season is we really don’t know what to expect. The two players that can be big difference makers are Artest and Bynum. Also whether or not Sasha and Farmar can recover from a sub-par season will have a big impact.

    One thing we have talked about before that we can say is true is that Artest will bring a toughness to the team that has open to question before.

  53. Kurt,
    Sorry… but when it came to one on one defense Ariza was pretty bad. He couldn’t guard any SF one on one. He either has a very slow first step witch would help explain (along with questionable ball handling) why he can’t drive to the basket one on one offensively, or he was too weak to guard people one on one. Maybe a little bit of both.

    What we do know is that Trevor couldn’t keep anyone in front of him. While the Lakers will miss Ariza’s team defense (ability to play passing lanes) they will not miss his one on one defense which was so bad we needed to double his man every-time they touched the ball. Yes… we also doubled Artest in the playoffs when Ariza was on him.

  54. Pencil me in for 68.

    I agree about the transition game. It will be slower with Artest, unless it’s him making the outlet. It always seemed to me that Phil and Kobe aren’t transition guys anyway. It’s can get chaotic and it keeps the ball out of Kobe’s hands.

  55. Aaron, this is exactly what I meant. We as fans tend to make villains of the guys that leave and ignore the flaws of the guys coming in. Did Ariza struggle defending strong threes? Yes, but he did well on others. Don’t go overboard. And while we’re at it, you and others have talked about how Artest is not the athlete he was a couple years back –- that impacts his defense as well. He is not the defender anymore that some Lakers fans seem to think he is, he needs help plenty.

    As for doubling Artest in the playoffs: Of course, who else were we going to double? He was the guy trying to foolishly take over games at times, not passing and costing his team. It’s smart to double him at that point regardless of who is on him.

    Finally, a quote from Phil: ” Not to say that we’re not going to miss (Trevor) Ariza. We’re definitely going to miss Trevor in our game. There’s a certain sense of how he plays. He didn’t need a lot of shots, he didn’t need a lot of things run for him as a player to be happy and to contribute. His defensive capabilities and steals to get through picks and get back to his man were invaluable to us last year in the playoffs. ”

    I think some people are seriously overestimating how big an upgrade this is. And if he doesn’t blend in, it’s not an upgrade at all, it’s the opposite.

  56. 1) I said Ariza was not a good one on one defender WHILE he was on the Lakers. Phil Jackson said himself that Ariza is a great team defender but a bad one on one defender.

    2) And as I have already said… Artest isn’t the athlete or the defender he used to be. But either is Kobe. But when you are already such a good athlete and defender when you slip a little bit you are still a great defender and a great athlete… and Kobe and Ron are still great defenders as evidence by them both deservedly making the all defensive team last year. Artest is the 2nd best defensive player in the league at SF behind Lebron James.

    3) Also… you don’t NEED to double anyone. Doubling jeopardizes the integrity of your team defense. The Lakers didn’t double Artest because there is a “doubling quota” that needs to be met. They doubled Artest because this happened every time the help didn’t arrive in time…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvlK-kU72CE
    Notice how Collins says in the clip “This is the matchup you have to be worried about if your the Lakers” speaking on Ariza trying to guard Artest.

    4) The quote you listed from Phil is exactly the type of “team” defense I said Ariza played so well. He was great at help defense and playing passing lanes. I never said anything to the contrary.

    5) I love Trevor Ariza… I loved him even more because although I knew he at best was a slightly below average starting NBA SF he was a HUGE upgrade to Walton and Vlade. Mainly because he could move his feet without falling. Ariza is a specialty player. He dose a couple things very well. He steps into passing lanes better than anyone in the league and he finishes on the break very well. That is it. As you saw Caron Butler spread his wings given a more dominant role with the Wizards… you will see Ariza struggle like he did in New York and Orlando now that he isn’t playing in a system and with players that can hide his various shortcoming (ball handling, shooting, passing, one on one defense).

  57. Kurt is right. Artest is not the defender that he was when he won DPOY. He will be a better defender against Lebron and probably Melo since those two will not just be able to muscle him out of the way, like they could do against Ariza (and Melo did quite often in the playoffs, he even just out muscled Kobe a lot of the time). Just compare Artests defense against Kobe in the playoffs to Battier’s (who I think is the best perimeter defender in the league). Every time Artest was on Kobe he started driving and getting to the basket. This was much harder for him when Battier was guarding him.

    Artest simply is not as quick as he was and therefore is not the defender he used to be.

  58. Ryan (57),
    Artest is going to guard SF’s like Lebron and Melo. So I guess you agree with me on this one. Battier guards SG’s better and Artest guards SF’s better. Its that simple. That is why Battier plays Kobe better… Kobe is a SG. Do you follow?

  59. I was in the camp that didn’t want Artest, especially when the choice was him or Odom.

    Regardless of what anyone thinks of him and his mindset, he’s a Laker now so we’ll live or die with him.

    So long as everyone’s healthy and Artest doesn’t force things on either end — and if he can do a good job at one-on-one (with some help, but not “break down the scheme ’cause he can’t guard him alone” help) against Wheelchair Boy, Carmelo and King Sportsmanship — the Lakers will wind up where they were in June 2009: riding on a bus to the Coliseum.

  60. Ariza did just fine defending most SF’s. The ones that had excessive strength and/or skill on the low block are the ones that give him trouble. So, a list like Melo, Artest, and Pierce would be a good place to start when discussing the types of players that Ariza would have problems with. Most defenders have problems with those guys though, so that really doesn’t matter much to me. I would also point out that Lebron is a different type of SF in that he has the body of a truck but doesn’t rely on his strength in a traditional way. Rarely does he bang into you to create space or bulldoze you with power back downs. Instead he uses a combination of his incredible quickness AND his strength/body type to get a step on you and then watch as you get shielded/bounce off his tremendously strong body. And, if I recall corretly, while Kobe did guard Lebron a fair amount in our two matchups, Ariza guarded him as well. And, Lebron shot 14 for 45 in those two games. I’d like to be able to give some credit for those performances to Ariza.

    Also, Aaron mentioned that Ariza had trouble staying in front of the players he was guarding. To that, I would point out that the Lakers’ defensive scheme was one that was predicated off “shading” offensive players and forcing them in a certain direction and towards help defenders. So, while players surely drove by Ariza (as Aaron implies), I attribute at least some of that (and really a lot more than just “some”) to the fact that the scheme that we were playing was telling him to “allow” players to go in a certain direction because help was supposed to be there. This is where Kurt’s point about double teaming is also relevant. We played a double teaming scheme. When the ball went to the post, we doubled with our PF from the weak side. Sometimes this was a hard double and sometimes it was just a “show”, but we commited that extra defender. So, doubling Artest was partly associated with Ariza’s struggles with guarding overly physical, post up SF’s while some of this was definitely scheme oriented.

    In essence, I don’t think it’s fair, at all, to say that Ariza is a “bad” one on one defender. I’d love to see a direct quote from Phil saying that (as Aaron implies). What I do think is that the combination of scheme and a certain type of SF (there are maybe 3 or 4 of these guys in the entire league) that Ariza would have some problems with. Otherwise, by my recollection, he did just fine as far as executing what was (seemingly) the game plan.

  61. 56, in response to your third point, in today’s NBA, you pretty much NEED to double-team certain players. With the hand-check rules and generally low-level of contact allowed on the perimeter by officials, double-teaming has become the most effective way to defend penetration. You basically can’t touch a guy when he’s dribbling, and everyone knows that the offensive guy’s greatest advantage is the defensive player not knowing which direction he has to move. In the past, the defensive player could compensate for this by blocking the area of penetration, but now this act is almost universally called as a block and a defensive foul.

    And let’s assume that your perfect defensive lineup of Brown, Bryant, Artest, Gasol/Odom, and Bynum starts. Even if you pre-suppose that this unit can play solid 1-1 defense, what happens when the reserves come in? What happens when Luke, Sasha, Fisher, and Farmar come off the bench? Are we going to expect them to defend on the same level as the starters? If not, sending them out there with the same defensive principles as the starters would be asking for failure. So do we change defensive alignments based on who’s in the game? Or do we adopt a system which benefits all of our players? If we choose the latter, we will again see some semblance of the SSZ.

    Another thing: I’ve seen Kobe play solid 1-1 defense once this past season, and that was the week before Christmas against Lebron. Once out of 105 games. He’s on record saying he loves roaming; that he feels like he’s at his best when he’s allowed to leave his man. We could do this partially because Farmar, Odom, and Ariza were so good at covering the passing lanes last year. Replace Ariza with Artest, and we lose a lot of the efficiency of Kobe’s favorite defensive tactic.

  62. I am cautiously optimistic, but I can’t help worrying the actually play diagrams will involve four clean curves and one line drawn by my toddler on a sugar rush.

  63. I hope it works out but I really don’t think it will. Ariza was always moving without the ball, getting to the right spot to receive a pass. Artest is more of an NBA star player, he’s a lot better at creating his own shot but that’s what Kobe’s job, and if Kobe’s out it’s Pau. I have a time seeing Artest cutting and being active without the ball like Ariza.

    I don’t think Ariza will be great in Houston, he needs to be on a team with a super star scorer like Kobe, Lebron, Wade, Melo. I just think he was a better fit for the Lakers.

    Also on defense Ariza was like many have pointed out a good team defender, which is what we need. Players that can rotate out to shooters and quickly get to the right spots on the floor. Artest can only guard one player on the floor(and not as well as people seem to think), but when Fish gets beat by Parker and we help and Parker kicks it to a shooter who will be quicker to get out there Artest or Ariza?

  64. Also, where does team defense start and individual defense end? I mean, Ariza chasing his man everywhere around the court, fighting through screens, contesting shots – these aren’t acts of individual defense? Does individual defense start only when your man has the ball? I understand that when you leave your man to help or to take a charge or to get a steal from the weakside those are acts of team defense.

    I think a better point to make about Ariza was that he was a pretty tremendous off ball defender and merely a very/pretty good on ball defender. But, by no means was he ” pretty bad”. Especially not against “any SF”.

  65. 23) Amen, brother. Anybody who thinks that Artest was a downgrade has a short memory. We were Kenny Thomas’s contract away from trading Artest for LO a year ago.

    Tough to argue that Artest isn’t going to make us a better team next year. I agree that we will lose some of our fast break opportunities without Trevor, but I’ll take that if it means a more balanced triangle attack, which we WILL get with Artest. He shoots better, passes better, and can handle the ball better.

    And defensively, yeah we don’t have Trevor the inbounds pass sniper anymore, but we also won’t give up 40+ to Carmelo Anthony.

  66. Darius,
    If you really think Ariza was a solid on ball defender than there is really nothing left to talk about. I am sure Derek Fisher is a good on ball defender as well? We are watching two different games I guess. Ariza is too weak and doesn’t have a good enough first step to play adequate one on one defense against SF’s. Just because you see an athlete like Ariza fly around getting steals, and disrupting offenses doesn’t make him overall a good defensive player. There is a reason why although Ariza is a awesomely rare team defender he wasn’t named to the All Defensive team last year like Artest was. Its because he is that bad of an on ball defender. And fyi… one of Artest’s strengths is fighting through screens. Something he does better than Trevor.

  67. I agree Aaron, I think we often are watching different games.

    And seriously, you cannot judge how good a defender someone is by the All Defensive team votes, which even though they come from coaches have long been mostly about reputation.

  68. Aaron,
    I’m not sure I mentioned Artest once in my comment, so I’m unsure as to why you feel the need to bring up Artest’s strengths and accomplishments. I think Artest will be just fine on defense, although I wonder if we’ll still employ the SSZ and, if so, how Artest will respond to that scheme (likely well considering that he really is a good defender, but I can still wonder). But that’s a different conversation entirely and one that we don’t need to get into now.

    Getting back to Trevor, yes I consider him solid on the ball. Is he Tayshaun Prince or Battier or Lebron or even Artest? No, those guys are considered *the* elite defenders at that position. But, I do think there are shades of gray here. Just because Trevor is not one of the 4 or 5 best defenders at his position doesn’t mean that he’s bad. Maybe we’re just dealing with a symantics issue and nothing more. I just don’t agree with the statement that “when it came to one on one defense Ariza was pretty bad. He couldn’t guard any SF one on one.” Maybe that statement of yours was an exaggeration for the purpouse of making a point or hyperbole to emphasize your position that you don’t think Trevor is as good as others at defense. But, I just don’t think he’s bad.

  69. Aaron,

    Like many awards in the NBA, all-defense can be seen as much based on reputation as production. Look at the yearly honorees and they are established players with great defensive reputations. Nothing says Ariza, who is coming off a breakout season, will not be an all-defensive talent in the future. You are really underestimating what he does on that end of the floor. What 3s consistently “abused” him or even had considerable advantages on him outside of PP, LBJ, & Melo (3 all-world talents)? He mitigates any lack of foot speed or first step with great length and instincts. And he’s gonna get better. But I was always in the boat that if we had a shot at Artest, we should take it – just not for LO like many have already mentioned.

  70. Darius,
    I can only compare his one on one defense to other starting SF’s… Lebron James, Ron Artest, Danny Granger, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler, Gerald Wallace, Paul Pierce, Josh Howard, Anthony Randolph & Stephen Jackson, Marvin Williams, Luol Deng, Richard Jefferson, Rudy Gay, Travis Outlaw, Tayshaun Prince, Hedu Turkoglu, Al Thorton…

    Do you get my drift? When it comes to one on one defense Ariza is behind all those SF’s. Overall he would be in the 20 to 30 range generously in on ball defense. That would make him “below average to bad.”

  71. Aaron, have you ever watched Al Thorton play defense? Of course you haven’t, nobody has, he never does it.

    Rudy Gay is athletic but thin and gets pushed around. Hedo plays to shade people to Howard, which is the entire Magic system. I could go on and on here, but I think you get the point. That list has some quality players but not all quality defenders.

  72. Aaron,
    We’re all entitled to our opinion. I’ve seen plenty of games by all those players and while I agree with several players on your list (I mentioned some those guys myself, plus the guys that you mentioned like JackO, Wallace, ‘Melo [who was quite improved last season]), I still disagree with many of the players that you’ve mentioned. I also think you’re still discounting the scheme that the Lakers’ ran this past season as a real factor as to what type of on ball defense Trevor played (as he was actually asked to do some of the things that I think lead you to your conclusions). Oh well. I guess that maybe we do watch a different game. We could go back and forth on this and probably never agree, so I’ll just leave it at that.

  73. Good Lord, some people are still calling a 70 win season a ridiculous notion?

    Kurt, if 64 wins is what it takes for this team to secure home court throughout the playoffs (2 wins less than it would have taken last year), then maybe 64 is the ceiling. However, this team will be better at the point, better at the 3, better at the center and have a better bench than a team that won 65 last year.

    I certainly don’t want 70 wins to be a focus, but we are about to embark on a season with the best roster any NBA team has fielded in decades. If they remain healthy, and if someone in the east wins 65 games or more, 70 wins is absolutely within reach.

  74. 70, According to Dean Oliver’s defensive ratings system (via basketball-reference.com), Ariza was the 12th best defender in the league last season out of players from all positions. The only small forward better than him was Lebron James. If he’s generously ranked in the 20-30′s in one-on-one defense, according to whatever system you’re using, he must have been an All-World, All-Time help/team defender. Also interesting that Artest isn’t even on the list, even though he was easily one of the best defenders on one of the best defensive team in the league last year.

  75. Funky Chicken, 70 wins would require a level of focus from the Lakers that this franchise has never had — not even with the intense Riley as coach and Magic as the team leader. Last year, the Lakers took a lot of nights off, and there will be some of those this year. But basically I’m with you — The Lakers are going to get off to a fast start with a home-friendly early schedule and the topic is going to come up. I don’t think it should be a focus at all. I care only about 1) being healthy for the playoffs; 2) home court. In that order.

  76. I was going to stay neutral on this latest chapter in the Artest debate saga, but sweet Jesus…Did someone just say that Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Luol Deng, and Anthony Randolph are better defensive players than Ariza?

    Al Thornton? Travis mo-friggin Outlaw? How grainy is the TV you watch on?

  77. Kurt and Darius,
    I never said those guys played good one on one defense… they just play it better than Trevor Ariza. And regarding the SSZ the Lakers played… we didn’t use it very often when Kobe was on the ball or when Gasol or Odom were on the ball out on the perimeter. We used it when Fisher and Ariza (and of course the bench players) were being isolated on the perimeter.

    Re: 70 wins
    There is a championship team every year… but how many teams win 70 or more games in a season? You can bet Kobe Bryant is going to want to separate himself and his team from the other greats in NBA history by winning 70. Is the team going to push it if it involves playing more minutes than Phil wants out of the stars or guys playing hurt? No. But you can bet that this team is going to try and win every game they play and there is a chance with the talent on this roster that when the season ends they might have 70 plus wins in their back pocket.

  78. … and Kurt, who is thinner and gets pushed around more? Rudy Gay or Trevor Ariza? I also would put Josh Smith in the SF category. Another guy to put ahead of Ariza… and i didn’t put James Posey on the list because he doesn’t start. But if I were to include every SF in the NBA I would put Maurice Evans ahead of Ariza also. Ariza is just too weak to play adequate one on one defense. But he makes up for it as probably the 2nd best team defender on the perimeter in the NBA behind Lebron James.

  79. Josh Smith does not play SF and neither does Anthony Randolph.

  80. Ariza did play good man up defense. ‘Melo, Paul Pierce and LeBron give everyone fits. That is why they are elite players. Luke Walton plays ‘Melo and Artest well because he is stronger, but that doesn’t make him an elite defender. Big, strong SF’s just weren’t Ariza’s forte. He did many things well, and his length, athleticism, added to hustle and intuition can’t be taught or under estimated.

    Mo Evans? The man we traded to get Ariza. Who NEVER made the impact Trevor eventually did.

  81. I thought I’d stop after my last comment, but what can I say?…I’m back.

    More than half the players you mentioned are decent defenders and several were elite. Trevor was better than all but 7 of them in my opinion (Lebron, Prince, Wallace, Battier – not mentioned by oversight I’m sure -, Artest, ‘Melo, and Jackson. As wondahbap mentioned, Ariza had issues with a certain type of player, but those players are also some of the better offensive players in the league, so I essentially give him a pass for struggling with guarding the best of the best. Most players do.

    Also, you say that Kobe, Odom, and Gasol never had the SSZ played behind them “when they were isolated on the perimeter” and that is mostly true. However, PG and SF are the positions that have the most attack players in the league. Name a true SG (that Kobe actually guards – at this stage of his career Kobe is given the MJ in 96-98 treatment where other guys take the tough assignment for the majority of the game) that is a true offensive force outside of Wade or maybe OJ Mayo (yes there are guys like Rip Hamilton, Kevin Martin, Eric Gordon or even Rudy Fernandez but those guys are more off ball players that utilize movement and screens to get their shots, not attacking off the dribble where the SSZ is really utilized most). Name a true perimeter oriented attack PF besides Dirk (or maybe Jamison) that LO or Gasol guard (you could say Rashard Lewis, but he’s like the Rip Hamilton of PF’s – using screens and pick and pops to get his shots). Now, name the PG’s that play that attack role that Fisher faces on a nightly basis – CP3, Deron, Nash, Brooks, Rose, Parker, Monta, Baron, Billups, Arenas, Nelson, Harris, Iverson, Felton, and I’m going to stop counting now. Now name the attack SF’s that Ariza was expected to guard – Lebron, Pierce, Melo, Durant, Iggy, Deng (injured a lot so lets just give a pass here and say Salmons instead), Hedo, Ginobili (though he plays some SG too), Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Maggette, Butler, Josh Howard, Artest, and I’ll stop counting again.

    My point is, please don’t bring up a point like “Kobe, LO, and Gasol didn’t need the SSZ but Fish and Ariza did”, without even mentioning that the majority of the perimeter oriented attack players – the players the SSZ is supposed to help contain – play SF and PG and consistently face Fish and Ariza. I don’t mind having a back and forth. But please don’t try to skew the argument in your favor by making a point without even acknowledging the circumstances that make your point relevant.

  82. One point to remember is that Ariza came here with a rep as a good off ball defender, but a suspect 1-on-1 defender. As we should all know from the Kobe Chronicles, it is sometimes impossible to shake early opinions of the fans and talking heads.

    We run a structured offense and a structured defense. This helps young players get better because they learn a specific role, instead of always changing based on the opposition – something veterans are usually much better at. Ariza also only had 1 year of college and had a lot to learn.

    As a result, I think Ariza got to be a much better 1-on-1 player because of this and I expect to see him have good defensive statistics in Houston because 1) they run a structured defense and 2) he will be playing alongside Shane Battier.

    He will also probably suffer offensively because of all the reasons previously mentioned here.

    He has definite strengths the Lakers will miss, but this is a veteran starting lineup and not as prone to run as a bunch of younger players – remember this is why we said Ariza did better with the 2nd team? That is the reason I think Artest will add more than Trevor subtracts.

  83. The way I see it, Trevor was a wildcard that could really turn the tide against teams that were playing better than us. That’s partially because he was inadequate in some areas, but was able to come up with stuff people can’t plan for.

    This really came in handy when we simply weren’t ‘there’ and would have otherwise folded, and created an aura of inevitability – play bad or good, Lakers win.

    With Artest, you get a solid… face card. Used to be an Ace of Spades in defense and a Queen of Clubs or so on offense, but not sure where he’s at. But whatever he’s at, that’s what you get (and hopefully no fits). So I expect us to win more games with him, because he’s more reliable (urgh) in terms of performance.

    However, he’s not going to create any momentum shifting plays – he may gradually wear people down, but won’t have that flashy defensive moment, at least not as much as Ariza. Compared to Ariza Artest’s defensive is like a Spur, or a Rocket, and not quite hollywood.

    So, I have a feeling, that we will win more regular season games, but we’re gonna have more trouble in the postseason where we might need momentum shifts.

  84. What an interesting conversation here. All that I hope will happen next season is that Artest fills the role that Trevor did and also adds the better one-on-one defense, against SF’s like LBJ, melo and Pierce types. That is all we need and I also hope he plays as many games as Ariza did. Let’s not downtalk Trevor here, we got out of him what we needed last year and won a Championship with him as our starting SF.

  85. Darius,
    Great post. I like the angle you took. Fyi, I didn’t include Battier because he didn’t guard SF’s very often last year. He does a better job on SG’s. Although I liked your post and appreciated the argument you made… unfortunately I still disagree sort of. I agree that there are better PG’s and SF’s in the association as compared to SG’s, but Ariza wasn’t the only one guarding those great SF’s . When Phil decided to put Kobe on them the Lakers didn’t provide the help of the SSZ. Now lets move to PF where you forgot to mention the perimeter play of Tim Duncan…yes Timmy likes to face up on the perimeter often. Other PF’s that like to attack on the perimiter include Kevin Garnett, Dirk and Rashard (as you mentioned), Chris Bosh, Antawn Jamison, Amare Stoudemire, LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, Carlos Boozer, and Elton Brand.

    It’s not a secret why coach Jackson decided to provide help defense for Fisher and Ariza and not so much for Kobe, Gasol, Odom, and Bynum. It also should be mentioned that Kurt Rambis while doing an interview for PMS on 570 after the season when listing the things Trevor Ariza needed to improve on in the offseason mentioned his “guard skills” and “man on man defense.’

    I love Trevor. His ability to not be a weak link on offense and play all world team defense in the playoffs was one of the big reason the Lakers won the title. But just because you love a player doesn’t mean they are perfect. And its silly to say “these are all universe talents… of course he got torched by them… everyone does.” Because like you say… there are shades of grey. Not every team HAD TO provide SO MUCH help for their SF’s against the Carmelo Anthony’s of the world. I think part of the problem is that we Laker fans compare Ariza’s man to man defense to Luke Walton and Vlade. In that case Airza is a great on ball defender. Its the same reason Lakers fans are so excited about Shannon Brown. He is a fan favorite partly because we haven’t seen a good athletic PG since Nick Van Exel. Of course people are going to be wowed by “ShanWow” after watching Derek “remember 5 years ago when people still thought I was slow” Fisher walk up and down the court. We can celebrate all the great things Trevor did… the steals, the hustle plays, the clutch threes. It doesn’t mean we have to pretend he was something he wasn’t. They guy played great team defense the whole season and shot well in the playoffs. That is it. I am worried Trevor is going to revert to his past play from seasons of yore where he didn’t have superstar teammates to make him look good. I am afraid he is going to get a lot of grief from all sides when he struggles to be a productive player with the Rockets. He would have been better off taking the MLE from the Cavs where he could play a similar role to the one with the Lakers. But he said he didn’t take it because they said he wouldn’t start.

  86. 83,
    I think you are right on regarding Artest and his grind it out defense. I personally think it is perfect for us. He can be an anchor for our defense and allow Kobe to roam as he so much loves. Doesn’t that sound like we have our new fast break release? Kobe always has been one to jump breaks as is, now with Artest to help out on rebounding as well, I see Kobe more as that release man that Trevor was with the 1st unit last year. Fisher filling a 3-point gap, with three very capable trailers. Not to mention, Kobe will have fresh legs for the first time in a while.

  87. I read every blog post, and used to enjoy reading all the comments (though I rarely comment). I hate to call people out, specially since most other blogs reduce to name calling and FB&G is a pleasant exception. But Aaron, any thread you post on multiple times becomes unreadable. I am not the most knowledgable person about Basketball, but even I can see that most of your comments (eg. Al Thornton) are uninformed. Its fine to be an uninformed fan, but in that case, just post once or twice and then sit back and enjoy what other people have to say, rather than engaging in long combative back-and-forths. You are turning people off.

    I will follow my own advice and keep shut for the rest of this post (but I will read them, so feel free to disagree).

  88. I will say this regarding Derek Fisher. I can’t blame him too much for not being able to cover his man. The rules let PG’s roam anywhere practically unimpeded. I don’t think he’s changed *that* much over the course of his career. There were many games last year that when the refs let them play a little (big games) where he buckled down and locked up his man.

    Unfortunately, it’s his offense that stinks right now. (With exceptions to Game 4. He is a true Pro….)

  89. harold,

    Good points. But I slightly disagree. I think Artest’s game will turn out to be more effective in the playoffs.

    I will miss Ariza’s ability to interchange. I loved it when PJ put him on a PG and shut him down, but I’m guessing they feel Brown is up to snuff.

    I would gladly trade that interchangeability for the chance to effectively defend the like of LBJ, PP, ‘Melo, and Richard Jefferson since those are the SF’s on our so-called contenders. The first 3 being the #1 options for their teams (for Boston, PP is in crunch time).

    That is why letting Ariza go was easy. The brass knew that the best way to defend the Chip was stopping the strong SF’s on contenders. Elite, strong SF’s who decide their teams fate. It was Ariza’s weakness and Ron Ron’s strength. But most importantly, our contenders strength. Let’s face it. If LBJ or PP are limited then their teams have no shot against us.

  90. I, too, sometimes tire of these long, tedious debates. But I think it’s natural with sports. With technology people just take it from the bar to a new medium, and it’s all in good fun. I think.

    Awesome news: Kobe Bryant named player of the decade by Sporting News:
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2009/09/kobe-bryant-is-named-nba-player-of-the-decade.html

  91. Also, if anyone has felt their pure hatred for Paul Pierce waning, here’s some motivation:


    Pierce said he barely watched the Lakers beat the Magic in the NBA Finals. After the series was over, he tweeted, “Looked like a German shepherd vs. a poodle. That’s OK the Rottweiler Celtics will b back in 2010.”

    I’ve always found Rottweilers ugly.

  92. Everyone should check out basketball-reference.com’s 2008-09 NBA Expanded Leaders page, especially at the last few columns with Offensive Rating, Defensive Rating, and Win Shares.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2009_leaders.html

    According to Dean Oliver’s book, defensive rating is calculated as

    DRtg = TMDRtg + %TMDPoss*[100*DPtsPerScPoss*(1-Stop%) - TMDRtg]

    where TMDRtg = Team Defensive Rating
    %TMDPoss = percentage of defensive possessions in which the player in question was actively involved
    DPtsPerScPoss = number of points scored per scoring possession
    Stop% = percentage of possessions which ended in a defensive stop

    So basically, if the rest of your team really stinks on D, you’re going to get a fairly bad defensive rating. If the rest of your team is average on D and you perform well, you’ll be above average. If you perform poorly and the rest of your team defends well, you’ll probably be above average but you’ll be below your team’s rating.

    Since the Lakers have a TMDRtg of 104.7 (6th in the league), Ariza’s DRtg of 102.2 seems to point out that not only was he effective on D, he was more effective than his teammates. So perhaps Ariza was a poor individual defender. But his presence on the floor definitely benefited us far more than it hindered us. Couple in the fact that both Luis Scola and Yao Ming are on the top 20 list in Defensive Rating, while Ron Artest is not, and I find it hard to see the huge chasm in ability between Artest and Ariza as an individual defender.

    I don’t think anyone is trying to claim that Ariza was an All-World individual defender; but claiming he was “bad,” meaning in the lower 1/2 of the league as an individual defender, is just fallacious.

  93. If the Celtics are a Rottweiler, they are a 12 year old one with bad knees.

  94. How badly does everyone want to see the Lakers play the Celtics in the finals this year?! But then again, when the Lakers win they’ll probably just come up with something like “we’re a year older and past our primes, if KG haden’t gotten injured last year we forsure would have won it all, so it realy doesnt count”.

  95. Ok, I loved Trevor on the team. I thought he had a tremendous impact on the team. You can’t argue with the result from last year (Los Angeles Lakers 2009 NBA Champions, feels good to type that out every time).

    But RonRon is only 29! He might not be AS elite a defender as he had been in previous years, but he is still very talented and effective. He is also quite strong and intimidating. I’m not expecting him to be the “enforcer”, but having him on the court provides a certain bravado that Trevor doesn’t exhibit.

    His offensive game is more complete than Trevor’s, and he will enjoy playing as the 4th best offensive player on the floor because no one will be keying on him.

    Finally, the value of the contracts is almost uncomparable. Artest gets the same contract as Ariza, what the what?

    Anyone remember Devon George? Ariza had one good year and parlayed it into a large contract. Not that Trevor doesn’t have potential, but RonRon is a proven player in his prime with a undervalued contract. You have to make that deal if you are Mitch.

  96. My hope… that the PG situation works itself out like the SF situation did last season. Hopefully, eventually, Brown will make it obvious to Fish that the team is better with Brown getting lots of minutes, maybe starting, and then the team has that athletic player that can play passing lanes.

    It is not really forgotten but repeating it won’t hurt, a healthy Bynum makes the Lakers an elite defensive team. It’ll be nice having Artests strength to battle the big SFs but my memory of the Christmas game and the home game against the Cavs was that of PP or LBJ getting by their man and finding Bynum waiting with his length, size and strength to nudge them away from a comfortable shot.

  97. P. Ami,

    Now imagine LBJ and PP *not* getting by their man very much.

    Sweet.

  98. the other Stephen September 25, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    rottweilers are kinda cute when they’re puppies, though. i think the take-away from all of this is for our guys to imagine that they’re playing a squad of babies–you know, kinda like the way some like to picture their audience members in underwear to ease their nerves during a speech.

  99. My comment at 9:03AM was modified from what I wrote, but it’s ok.

    Anyway, let the Boston Beans think they are adult Rottweilers, not puppies or arthritic oldies. The proof will come in the combat they have to go through in the East to get to the finals — same as us. However, since we are younger and more flexible, I like our chances.

  100. Via Truehoop – a kobe video that is pretty well done – the passing highlights were breathtaking

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyKgaeAoa-g

  101. New post up for weekend discussion.

    Craig W. I didn’t alter that comment, but if you email me and let me know what you said I can tweak it.

  102. Wow, it’s great how as time goes by everyone jumps on the Ron Ron bandwagon…simply put, Artest is a much better player than Ariza in all aspects of the game, sans the fast-break. Artest has some of the best passing instincts i’ve seen from a non-pg, can create his own offense, brings toughness and defense better than anyone, and is an all around great addition to this team.

    Nothing to worry about folks. We are talking about 1 of the best perimeter defenders in his generation, and no slouch on the offensive end. I can’t think of another realistic 3 that would be a better fit for the lakers.

  103. The signing of Ron reminds me of the Rodman signing with the Bulls. I said to myself….this is one helluva team. I feel the same about these Lakers. Most of the squad are in their prime (except for Drew) and Fish can still pull thru…I expect us to repeat multiple times…..

  104. im suprised you are the first person to bring up the comparison to rodman. this team definitely is starting to show some similarities to PJ’s last team when it comes to a balance of talent, chemistry and stardom that the bulls had in the 90′s (of course we have a few rings to go until we can really compare the teams though). i think the TA for ronron swap was bitterly the right move to make. i was a big T.A fan from the get go of 07′ with his flashy fastbreaks, tough D, and as a 3pt shooting prospect since before his ankle injury. But! for a guy[ronron] that we were willing to give up LO for, (the primary player we recieved from throwing away shaq) is easily worth losing a player who has not had a FULLY successful season yet in his career. Also, just mentioning to what one of the posts said before; if you are worried about the health of ronron you wouldn’t had been better off with TA who was out on ankle injury for 55% of the 08′ season.

    BTW: i think this has been the best topic i’ve seen all summer… right next to the future of the PG position.