2009-10 Player Review: Ron Artest

Jeff Skibiski —  July 5, 2010

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With the 2009-10 season behind us and the free agency bonanza just getting started, ‘Forum Blue & Gold’ begins the first of a series of player reviews from your NBA champions. We begin with the player who left many fans and critics divided when he was signed before last season: the one and only Ron Artest.

SEASON IN REVIEW:

Ron Artest has been called many things in his career—defender, instigator…even crazy. In 2010, the Lakers small forward finally added a new title to his résumé: champion. After fan-favorite Trevor Ariza bolted for the Houston Rockets, the Lakers quickly snatched up the former Defensive Player of the Year with their mid-level exception—a steal by most anyone’s standards, albeit one that represented a notable risk-reward type of proposition for a team coming off of a championship victory.

“He wants to win a ring,” said Artest’s agent David Bauman shortly after his signing last summer. “He’s a winner and a hard worker and he went looking for a team with whom he could find some justification for what he does. He plays his best when he’s in that kind of an environment.”

Bauman’s comments set the tone for Artest’s inaugural season in a Lakers jersey, even if from a purely statistical standpoint, the former St. John’s star had one of the most underwhelming seasons of his career. Over 77 games, Ron put up fairly pedestrian averages of 11 points per game on 41% shooting, to go along with four rebounds and a little over one steal. As is usually the case with Artest though, what you see is not always what you get as his defensive toughness and hunger for an NBA title provided a huge—and in many ways underrated—boost to a team that battled through injuries and post-championship complacency for much of the regular season’s second half.

As a defensive master, Artest didn’t disappoint—methodically disassembling the games of Kevin Durant and Paul Pierce among others, while ensuring that Kobe didn’t have to waste vital energy chasing the other teams’ star player around for 48 minutes. His playoff performance also served as a reminder to the league that #37 remains an elite on-ball defender and that much like Kobe, rumors of his demise were premature. After all, Artest was similarly injured toward the end of the regular season, yet still gutted it out and missed only five games.

On offense, it goes without saying that Ron spent much of the season dazed and confused, admittedly struggling with the intricacies of the vaunted triangle offense and an outside shooting touch that betrayed him most nights. These issues aside though, Ron still provided what were arguably the two biggest offensive plays of the post-season with his instant redemption game-winning put-back in Game 5 against the Suns and his clutch three-point dagger with just over a minute remaining in Game 7 against the Celtics.

On its face, Artest’s overall season arc provided a bit of a mixed bag. However, Ron was never a Pau Gasol-type of of player who was going to integrate flawlessly (and immediately) into the team’s ebb and flow. He wasn’t signed for his suave game or consistent shooting. To the contrary, the forward was brought to L.A. for exactly the opposite reasons—to create discord on the floor for other teams. In that bruiser type of role, he succeeded with flying colors.

PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON:

Kobe initially called out the Spaniard during the Finals trophy presentation, but without Ron Artest’s Game 7 heroics, the Larry O’Brien trophy is likely headed back east. With 20 points and five steals, Artest buoyed the team during a historically sluggish first three quarters, reminding his teammates that his fingers were still ringless with each and every timely put-back. Ever the drama king, Ron saved his best for last—connecting on a dramatic trey in the game’s final minute that not only sent the STAPLES Center crowd into a state of bedlam, but also proved to be the final nail in the Celtic’s coffin.

(Honorable mention goes to Artest’s kid-in-a-candy-store antics during his post-Game 7 interview.)

NEXT SEASON:

Truth be told, Artest is far from the only player who has failed to grasp the triangle on first attempt; future Hall-of-Famer’s Gary Payton and Karl Malone also experienced difficulty in their one year with the Lakers. Luckily, the Lakers have Ron under contract for four more years and he will only continue to grow within the offense, especially now that Coach Jackson has announced his return.

For better or worse, Artest has proven himself as a difference maker during his 11 up-and-down years in the league. He maintained his composure as well as any Laker this year though, showing a sense of maturity that few thought was possible for the player who once played a key role in the worst player-fan altercation in NBA history. Similar to the way Jackson helped Dennis Rodman harness his often combustible energy, Artest understood his role on this team and remained steadfast in his desire to do whatever it took to help the team win games. The forward willingly checked his ego at the door on day one as a member of the forum blue and gold, which is something that shouldn’t be overlooked when you consider that Ron has played the alpha dog on more than one team in the past.

“It’s amazing I can be the same person and a world champion,” said Artest in a post-championship interview with KHTK in Sacramento. “I always thought that I had to be someone else to be a world champion.”

The Lakers were fully aware of what they were getting into when they made the controversial decision to sign Artest, yet they never asked him to be anything other than himself. In turn, the 16-time NBA champions still got the pitbull they were hoping for and for the first time in his career, it was Artest who was perfectly comfortably walking with the rest of the pack. It’s that fundamental change in mentality that helped him transition from longtime misfit to the much more fitting title of NBA champion.

Jeff Skibiski

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46 responses to 2009-10 Player Review: Ron Artest

  1. I thought one of the keys to Artest’s success in the playoffs was his midseason decision to lose weight. He lost at least 20 pounds after the new year…I can’t ever remember a player doing that in the middle of a season, it was rather remarkable and it seemed to fly under the radar.

    Not sure the 280-pound version of Artest would have been quick enough to reach the rebound of Kobe’s miss in game 5 against Phoenix!

  2. It is ironic that when the sports pages are fill of all the ego-driven antics of the Free Agents, that Ron Artest exemplified the guy who would take less money and a subordinate role in order to win. Queensbridge !!!

    Also worth noting is that his assimilation was a total team effort. Everyone was pulling for him. Right down to Phil running special, non-triangle plays for him in the playoffs.

    Last – don’t forget the shower scene in Boston after the 08 series when he walked into the shower and told Kobe that he wanted to join him and help him win.

    I expect a big upside from Artest in 2010-11 – more offensive production and better passing.

  3. Artest proved his worth this past season. He should have been on the all-defensive team and everyone knows he was the difference maker in some of the biggest playoff games this year.

    Next year, he’ll be key once again. He’ll be counted on to shutdown the premier wing players in the league again if LA is to win a 3rd in a row, such as Carmelo, Wade, Durant, Roy, Lebron, Pierce, etc.. If he can continue to provide outstanding D and improve his corner 3 point shooting percentage over the next few years, he might be able to prove himself as one of the best role players of all-time.

  4. Really goes to show the Lakers and Kupchak had a plan going into the last offseason. I thought we really missed a slashing small forward during the regular season but Artest was clearly the right answer in these playoffs and a key reason we survived the OKC and Celtics. Now if we can get better distribution and health it should make for an exciting season.

  5. Great post… and great comment on Artest losing weight midseason. The thing i love most about RonRon is his love of competition and his commitment to his body. Why did the Lakers win Game 7? Because Artest was the only Laker with both the desire to get into the street fight that was the last game of the season and the body to survive it as well.

  6. While I agree that Artest didn’t quite figure out how to play in the triangle, some of his ineffectiveness offensively had a lot to do with his own performance. As we all saw, he seemed to routinely get blocked or have no elevation whatsoever around the basket. Hotspots confirms this, as he shot 48.2% around the basket, decidedly subpar. Hopefully the Lakers coaching staff will remind him to watch his bulk during the offseason, and we’d see more of him dunking the ball during easy breaks or when he clearly has good position.

    Ron was able to get to the corner 3s quite frequently, but converted them at a rate that was unsatisfying. I don’t think this is necessarily because he’s a bad shooter, but that he’s not used to it. His Hotspots charts from previous seasons show that he shot many, many shots from the wing, and relatively few from the corners. And I think this gels with our memory of him in Sacto and Houston, where he was option B at worst, and had the middle of the floor to operate on more frequently (which often resulted in the head-slapping fading jumper after a 6 second dribbling session). This is like when Ariza was told just to practice shooting after the 08 season–the Lakers could theoretically just tell Artest to train shooting corner 3s all summer long as his sole basketball assignment.

    Lastly, though Ron is known as a versatile defender, I don’t think that’s the case anymore. He did not defend either the SG or PF spot well. Clearly, he is not quick enough for the SGs, but I think he gave PFs no problem either, despite his strength. He is still a top defender against SFs, but the gameplan in the future should be weary of switches on the two other positions that he sometimes faced this past season.

  7. All the comments about Ron-Ron are spot-on. The intelligence of the bloggers on this site is one reason why it is #1 for Laker Fans. Also, because of the in-depth reporting and writing by Darius. Artest is real, faults and all and the world of sport needs more like him. Love his tenacity. Knicks just signed Amare for $100M/5 years. An upgrade but without another big name, a bit of a letdown. No team in the league can match or top 7.
    Three-peat is a genuine possibility for sure.

  8. If we were evaluating an individuals Performance on an Alphabetic Grading Scale, I would give Ron Ron a Solid B.

    Offensively Speaking, never fully grasped the Triangle and because of this, his shooting numbers were subpar. Because of our system, one of his best offensive Weapons was taken away, his ability to Post Up & Exploit smaller and/or weaker defenders. Within the Triangle, he was basically a Spot up Shooter, which isn’t his strength. Also, especially in the early portion of the season, he was too much of a Kobe Admirer/Worshiper, than actual Team-mate (IMO). Looked too Passive within the flow of the O and it appeared (@ times) as if he was more concerned ’bout Hurting the team (passing up Wide Open J’s) than Helping them (by simply being aggressive). With that being said, have to give him credit for sacrificing so much of his game (only takin’ 9 & 1/2 attempts per) for the betterment of the team, while still Maintaining a Positive Attitude.

    Defensively Speaking, words really can’t express what he meant to this Team. It was this Aspect of his game that he was brought here for & not only did he deliver; He did so More than Postal Workers. While Kobe was hands down the Focal Point of the O, Ron was (by far) The Man when it came to the D. He Values the ‘Championship End’ of the Court the way Old School Icons like Iceman Gervin & Alex English valued the Offensive End. I’m not big on ‘Stat Finding’, but to the Naked Eye, it was quite Obvious that our Overall Defense was much better than the year b4 & Ron was the reason why. Night in and Night Out, he manned up ‘gainst the other teams best scorer & because of this, Kobe was allowed to breath a lil’ easier. He Stepped up Big Time in the 1st rd of The ‘Offs by ‘Handcuffing & Locking Up’ MVP Candidate Kevin Durant. Wasn’t really challenged in the Next 2 Rds (Utah & Phoenix), but once the Finals rolled around, he smashed P. Square with his self proclaimed “No Buckets’ motto. It can be Arguably stated that his Defense against these 2 kats was 1 of the main reasons that we were able to ‘Retain Our Belts’, due to the Fact that he Basically Eliminated those 2 teams Best Offensive Weapons.

    So Overall, it was a Great season for Ron Ron. For one, he Shut Up all the nay-sayers (Bill Plaschke) who believed that he would be nothing more than a distraction and that Trev Ariza was a better fit. But mainly & more Importantly, he came on board for the sole Purpose of winning a ‘Chip and when it was all said & done, Mission Accomplished. Much Respect ‘True Warrior’ & Lets Do It Again Next Year.

  9. hey Darius, since we’re going to do player profiles, why not add in the exit interviews as well? I didn’t have time to go find them when it happened, but would love to read them now.
    it’s insightful because it’s what PJ and management wants each player to focus on in the off season.

  10. reading blogs supporting other teams. reading these comments about how our management made the right moves and sustained a championship franchise with the right strategy affirms a lot of things. for all the deals and players i wanted on this laker team, we still win the trophy with the organization’s decisions. it cries out loud and demands trust from us the fans. the ron-ron signing is testament to that. truly we are a spoiled organization, and the rest of the world knows that, respects how we do things (okay save for some conspiracy theorists). our calm yet active stance this offseason couldn’t have been better. i look forward to a dominant laker 10-11 team. GO LAKERS!

  11. #7:

    Phillip put together a great post a few weeks back that includes summaries/videos of exit interviews. Check it out here:

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/06/24/around-the-world-wide-web-exit-interviews/

  12. what do you guys think of the amare signing?

    i think its a good move by the knicks even if they dont get lebron. they needed someone after the past couple seasons. knicks fans should consider themselves lucky that memphis and atlanta gave out ridiculous contracts rudy gay and joe johnson, so the knicks wouldnt feel obligated to blow their cap space on them if they strike out with lebron.

    i think they should re-visit that monta ellis deal now that they have amare.

    if they dont get lebron, they should stand pat and try prying away carmelo next summer.

  13. before the season started, mark cuban implied artest would create conflict and strife, and said he was happy he was signed by the lakers.

    in your face, mark.

  14. the other Stephen July 5, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    i think it was always wishful thinking to mark…you could tell he didn’t believe in what he said 100%, because at that point, *no one* was 100% about what artest would ultimately spell for the team.

  15. Ron had his challenges on offense. And no he is not the defensive stalwart he used to be. Still, the man is a dang on good defender.

    Most of all, in the biggest game of his career Ron delivered. Big Time! You have to respect that about Ron. With him out there (and even a limited Drew) Boston could not push without getting pushed back. Ron made a HUGE difference this year. That was especially true in the playoffs.

  16. Warren Wee Lim July 5, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Aaron, I AM basing everything off as signing Blake to be our starter… or atleast play starter minutes. What I just don’t get is the fact that you like a washed up player better than a proven solid, albeit not top 19 in terms of PG (but I debate to be top 10 in terms of being a triangle PG).

    Steve Blake >>>> Tmac for obvious reasons. The reason I am very uncomfortable in all this is that if we have to complain about signing Blake and only have friggin Tmac to offer as an alternative, seems kinda stupid aren’t we? Esp that we are banking on TMac becoming a lock-up defender who will defer his scoring ala Ron Harper and guard the quick PGs with 2 not-just-bad but VERY BAD knees with the hopes that he will “rebound” from all this.

    You are asking the horse to become a camel.

    You are insinuating that a once very hot prom queen who now weighs 220 lbs can lose that extra hundred or so just because he is playing for the Lakers. Sheesh!

  17. Warren Wee Lim July 5, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    “Tracy is 31 years old and based on the history of players that have had his surgery will have a huge rebound year next season.”

    – Yeah only because his year was terrible doesn’t make him any less terrible next year.

    Its like averaging 3ppg this year and getting 6ppg next year and say: “look he has doubled his averages… AMAZING!” 0.0

  18. I know this thread is about Ron Ron, but as I am anxiously waiting for any news about Fisher coming back for one more Championship run, here is a good read.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/columns/story?id=5355999

    Fisher is much more than a great player. He is a great person.

  19. Aaron and Warren I agree with you both in some ways. Even before we signed blake i have been wanting the lakers to sign blake and tmac this summer. Those two players are the best pick ups (besides maybe bell over tmac). I think Steve Blake could be a great starting point guard in the triangle and T-Mac is not like a 220 pound prom queen years later anymore he is like 150 working his way down to were he was. He has tremendous upside. Last year he played some great games with the knicks and thats all we need from a man off the bench some great games. If we could get Tmac for whats left in the MLE that would be bitchin

  20. Warren Wee Lim July 6, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Jake its not about what’s left of the MLE, its about the proposal that Blake should not have been signed, and instead it should’ve been TMac. That’s where I have a problem of.

    If the campaign was: “Get Tmac for w/e is left for our MLE”, then that I have not complaints on.

  21. Warren Wee Lim July 6, 2010 at 12:49 am

    Also, if what’s remaining of our MLE is 1.8M, Mitch should strongly consider Kurt Thomas.

    I won’t complain if it was Tmac but priorities are priorities.

  22. Funky Chicken July 6, 2010 at 2:15 am

    If there was a choice to be made between Kurt Thomas and Tracy McGrady with what is left of the MLE, well that’s not even a close call. You take Thomas.

    We’ve already got Artest, Walton and Ebanks at the SF position for next year’s roster. Aside from LO, we have nobody else in the frontcourt off the bench. Suggestions that McGrady can play the point are pretty much absurd. You can’t take a lifelong small forward, have him undergo knee surgery, change teams, learn the triangle and then run the offense as PG. Never going to happen.

  23. Hi Jake (21),

    My brother Warren is right, but he might have said it more diplomatically.

    With Blake and Fisher in tandem, the Lakers already have their PG for next season. It would be great to have another Ron Artest story, and it might have been Mike Miller–but not Tmac.

    There is no redemption slot on next year’s Laker roster for a partially disabled former SG superstar.

  24. Warren Wee Lim July 6, 2010 at 3:32 am

    God Bless you Funky Chicken.

  25. Actually, T-Mac has been a shooting guard for most of his time in the NBA. Still, having seen YouTube videos of his Knick games this past season, he looks awfully slow. I’d take someone like Kurt Thomas with the remainder of the MLE any day, and if we can’t get him, I’d take DJ back.

  26. Assuming Ebanks and Caracter both make the team, that gives LA 10 signed players.

    Here’s the Lakers priorities as I see them:

    1. Sign Derek Fisher (I’m thinking a 2-year contract worth about 3 mil/year)

    2. Sign a veteran big man (Kurt Thomas) for the veteran minimum, someone that is smart, tough, and wants to win before retiring

    3. Sign a versatile swingman that might be able to play the point in a pinch with what’s left of the MLE (Dorrell Wright, Raja Bell, TMac are some examples). We could also re-sign Shanwow for 2.2 mil. If we sign a younger player like Brown or Wright or someone trying to make a comeback like TMac, we could incentivize them with winning and signing them to the full MLE next year if they have a solid season.

    This would give LA 13 players and a decent bench to give the starters more rest this season. Plus, it’s great to have some newcomers that are hungry to win.

  27. Hey crew, thought I’d pass along this sit down with Kobe from over at slam. Great read, enjoy

    http://www.slamonline.com/online/the-magazine/features/2010/07/the-road/

    As for offseason decisions, Mitch has definitely learned from the mistakes of Luke and Sasha, tossing out five mil, five mil there. Considering Duhon just got 4 yrs/15 mil from Orlando, we got a nice deal with Blake. I think next on the agenda is definitely a backup center, specifically Kurt Thomas. He filled in admirably for Bogut last yr in the playoffs, has a fine midrange jumpshot, and plays strong post D. I dont think we need another wing as much as some are suggesting, but if we can get Thomas on the vet min, I’m all for going that route with the remaining $1.8. But if Thomas demands up to 2 mil, we should use it all on him. Too much risk only having one big, Odom, who’s really a 3-4, off the bench. Sasha is going to have a good season, And he fits perfect as a back up 2. I also think Ebanks can be used around 8-10 mins/game. Assuming Luke can give us something, those three should be fine backing up Kobe and Ron.

  28. the other Stephen July 6, 2010 at 8:50 am

    27. good recap, ethan.

    but i believe that at this point the swingman’s passing ability won’t be as important as his outside shot and slashing ability.

    in this regard, t-mac fails both. to his credit, his passing ability remains as good as ever. but only once in the past 7 years has he shot as passable rate (>35%) from three, and that was in a year in which he played less than a third of the season.

    you can often see that he cannot generate enough lift on his jumpers. he is also painfully slow, something that can be attributed to his lack of explosiveness. it just so happens that the source of both his falling shot efficiency and his lack of slashing/penetrating ability are his wobbly knees.

    the ability to get out in the open court is the ability to change the course of a game. without that, we are more one-sided. by losing farmar and brown (with the exception of ebanks), we are severely lacking in that aspect of our game.

    that t-mac’s disappointing season is no indicator of the future is somehow used to support the assertion that he will actually have a *better* season is illogical and borderline disingenuous. keep in mind that t-mac’s knees are not the only health problem that has limited him in the past (his back).

  29. the other Stephen July 6, 2010 at 9:05 am

    25. not to mention that i also have doubts as to whether t-mac could really check his ego at the door. keep in mind that this man was the most highly paid player in the entire nba not long ago. we’d be asking him to play for barely a million–hardly even respect money.

    flushed with seeing ron succeed, we may be eager to have the same dreams for t-mac, but ron never quit on his team in the middle of a game with as uninspired play as t-mac did. ron may have brawled, may have boozed, and may have felt ashamed at leaving his indiana teammates out in the cold, but he never had a problem for lack of trying or lack of interest.

    i am as much of a t-mac fan as Stephen is, but i, too, say ‘no’ to t-mac.

  30. It’s great that we have so many bright minds speculating. But to me, the cliche “time will tell” is very important for a couple reasons. Ideally, Ebanks does turn into a guy who can play 8-10 a night. That would be best case scenairo. I think there are other potential outcomes that would leave us thinner. If (when) we get Fish back, it seems to me, very difficult to argue for getting back Shannon. He had a good run here, in terms of what he did previously, minutes and improvement/intelligence, and wants his chance. Not as much or as vocally as we’ve heard Jordan, but the same idea. Having two strong PGs now (Fish/Blake), expecting more of Sash, and having some mintues for Ebanks/Luke, Shannon could be looking at less minutes than last year. I’m not sure a $2.2M/yr for 2yrs. would be enough to get him back if someone else could wave that same number in front of him with definitely more playing time on the table.

  31. Thriller was amazing! He put it all together when the Lakers needed it most. He will only be better next season. It was a joy to watch him enjoy his championship and can’t wait to see him get his ring! A lot of Laker fans still holding on to Ariza can finally let him go. In additon to comparable stats, Artest brought something Ariza couldn’t bring – 6’7″ 260lbs of rock solid toughness. Now Artest has added his own playoff moments to go along with all the other Laker championship moments. #37Truwarrior Champion and comin’ back for more!

  32. I’m a bit behind here, but first of all, great post by Jeff. Artest came up huge when it mattered the most and I think he’ll live for a long time in Laker lore because of his game 7 performance (and for his tip in winner in the WCF). And I agree that he’s going to get better on offense. Towards the end of the Boston series, he made some very good plays that were created from a better understanding of the sets. One specific play I remember was when he got the 3 point play on the lay up in the 4th quarter of game 7. That basket was the result of Ron making the cut through the lane to clear the side for Pau to work the post and instead of just standing around when he cleared through, Ron never stopped moving and then cut hard to the basket when his defender turned his head to watch Pau. When Ron cut, Pau hit him with a great pass and then Ron finished with the foul. That play just showed how Ron started to play more with instinct rather than over thinking the game. If he can get to that point more next season, his scoring average will go up by 3-5 points just because he’ll be getting better looks at the basket in positions where he can do damage easier.

    As for T-Mac, I think he could help, but I don’t see him playing the “Ron Harper” role for the Lakers. Believe me, I do think McGrady has all the requisite skills to be a ball handler and distributor in this offense. What I don’t think he has are the defensive chops to guard opposing PG’s. He may have the length, but he doesn’t have the foot speed, imo. Remember, McGrady played 24 games between the Knicks and the Rockets last season and he played 35 games the year before. That’s 59 games in 2 seasons and the year before that he played 62 (+6 playoff games). While I understand the draw because of his name and what he’s been in this league, I don’t understand how any fan can claim to know what T-Mac will be next season considering what he’s been (injured) for a lot of the last 3 years. How is he reliable? How can the Lakers depend on *him* to be the starting PG or even a contributor off the bench that they’re going to rely on as a scorer/offensive initiator? McGrady is a player that is a huge gamble just due to his injury concerns – much less the potential fitting in (which I agree can be a bit overblown, but for someone of his stature, it’s still a valid question). So, while I wouldn’t mind having T-Mac, I’m not enthusiastically pushing for him. I’d much rather have Wright or Bell on the wing or sign K. Thomas a back up big and sure up another need area.

  33. That Slam article that Adam linked to was interesting.

    “SLAM: …do you look at like, percentages of how many times you’re in the post or…”
    “KOBE: At all. At all. At all. I look at—and a lot of it has to do with growing up under Phil’s system—I look at the momentums of the game, and how you affect the game. Statistics can’t tell you that, can’t teach you how to feel a game. Statistics are just for fantasy buffs or something, I don’t know.”

    This is what I have been trying to say about John Hollinger’s stats obsession. It is only part of the discussion – and why you have to watch the game to understand how people can impact it without appearing on the stat sheet.

    Here is Pop’s comment about Kobe…
    “It’s what sets him apart,” says Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “There are a lot of people with a lot of abilities, both physical and intrinsic basketball abilities, intelligent people, but he has what Michael had. And that’s not just an unbelievably competitive desire, but a real feel for the game, to know what has to be done at what point in the game.”

  34. Darius,
    Re: TMac’s Health

    In almost all cases a player performs much better 2 years after a serious knee surgery than 1 year after. I agree that based on his quickness and weight of a year ago Tracy could not guard PG’s well… but based on how others have responded to this knee surgery I believe he will get a good deal of his old athleticism back to the point where he could play that Ron Harper role on defense… and of course his PG skills were always better than those of Harp. Do we know how good McGrady will be next year? No. But for a minimum salary player he is going to be the best signing of the off-season. The Lakers could be getting a good/solid NBA starting PG or a below average bench player. They paid Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar more than the minimum to be a below average bench players last year… so why not do it again?

  35. Aaron,
    T-Mac’s health concerns are not limited to his micro-fracture surgery. And yes, players can come back from this injury, but betting that T-Mac *will* is different than saying it’s *possible*. You seem to be saying that he will. All I’m saying is I’m not so sure. He’s never been a durable player and I don’t think that’s debatable.

    Now, if we’re talking soley from a dollars standpoint, a minimum contract for T-Mac is worth the gamble. I think we can all agree that if he performed great the Lakers would have a steal. My point is more about role and reliability to play that role. And those concerns are regardless of the cost. You’re saying “he’ll be our starting PG for reasons x, y, and z”. And I’m saying you can’t rely on him to be that player based off his history. And reliability means something when it comes to injury. This isn’t all about an “attitude adjustment” like it was with Ron – as I said, I think “fit” can be overstated at times. But, if you’re going to say “the Lakers need a starting PG and it should be McGrady” I disagree there because the Lakers still hope to bring back Fisher, have already inked Blake, and when combined with T-Mac’s dodgy medical background, I don’t see this as a homerun signing. You claim to know that he’ll be great next year, but if you’re judging that off of the recovery period being “2 seasons”, I don’t think that’s enough of a precedent. Not with this player (not durable, lots of miles on his odometer coming out of HS).

    So, again, it’s worth the gamble but with a low level of expectations and a limited role. And at the right dollar amount. But not as the “starting PG” who the Lakers would expect to play 20-30 minutes a night (at a variety of positions; he won’t be limited to PG) and would rely on to succeed. Which, to be fair, you must admit you’ve been pushing pretty hard for. You’re already saying he’s better than Blake and Fisher and we’ve seen little from this player in the past 3 seasons that would suggest this is the case. It *could* be the case, but it’s not a guarantee and no where near as simple as you’ve made it sound over the past couple of weeks.

  36. When I mentioned TMac earlier after taking care of priorities in Fisher and getting a big man like Thomas, TMac would be my choice if Wright, Bell, and Brown are not available. By signing him to either the vet minimum or what’s left of the MLE (about $1.8 M), it’s a small gamble of LA as I see it. You can incentivize him to win a ring and earn a MLE type contract next year if he plays well in a Harper type role. Worse case scenario, LA wouldn’t NEED him with the rest of the strong lineup and can have him be the 11th or 12th man on the bench if he plays lousy. Being out about $1.1-1.8 M would pale to some of the worse contracts we’ve had over the years (Ammo, Kwame, Luke Walton, etc…).

    And the fact Sasha is in a contract year makes this even less of a gamble because you know Sasha is going to have a good year…

  37. Just saw something that caught my eye. Kevin Ding posted the summer league roster and Critt is not on it. Now I’m wondering if it’s because initial reports were false or because the Lakers signed Blake and didn’t feel the need to invite Critt anymore.

    http://lakers.ocregister.com/2010/07/02/lakers-draft-choices-happy-to-be-in-l-a/39311/

  38. Ron Artest is the ONLY player I can think of who took less money than he could get elsewhere in order to win a championship. I disliked Artest before he joined, but now he is one of my favorite Lakers. Great, unselfish player!!

  39. I think the Blake signing was clearly the correct move. Farmar is gone and Brown is opting out. The Lakers have to assume someone is going to overpay Brown (at least compared to what he is worth to the Lakers). Assuming that the Lakers are able to re-sign Fisher, that would have left them with only three guards on the roster. I believe that Blake was the best available option given the Laker’s system and financial constraints.

    With the PG situation shored up, I think the next greatest need is at SF. Right now the depth at SF is Artest and Walton, with Odom and Bryant able to provide minutes depending on line up configuration. Although the Lakers only used around 8-9 minutes a game (over 60 games) from the Walton/Morrison combination (with no other SF contributing minutes), I think SF remains the next most pressing need. The Lakers are an Artest injury away from having a huge lineup problem at SF. When Kobe misses games, that will also put pressure on filling minutes at SF. Last season the Lakers had five guards on the roster who actually saw minutes, which meant that they were sometimes going small and playing three guards. If we are looking at a four guard backcourt next season, then I think that limits somewhat the ability to cover the SF spot with guard play.

    Taking all that into consideration, with all due respect to posters looking for a veteran big man, I think the Lakers should stick with what they have in Powell and Mbenga (and that is assuming that no one else overpays them, which is not a given) and go for depth at the small forward. Sure, a Kurt Thomas pickup would be very useful. But I think we need to be realistic about the interplay between need areas and finances. I just don’t think it is prudent to have Ebanks be the contingency plan for an Artest injury. And what if Walton is severely limited again in terms of availability?

  40. (35) Great comment, Craig, and the difference between the statistical approach and the strategic approach of Jackson’s Lakers might best be exemplified by Derek Fisher.

    Aaron has been very consistent in using common statistical measures both to denigrate Derek Fisher and to promote various PG candidates that the Lakers should choose (most recently Tmac), or should have chosen. Yet Derek has had a very successful Laker career,is recognized throughout the NBA among the players, is co-captain, NBA player representative, and was one of the key players in the Lakers recent NBA championship.

    He knows what he can do, the Lakers appreciate what he does, and he almost certainly will remain the Lakers starting pg for yet another year.

  41. Darius,
    I never said TMac would be great… I said I predict he for us would be a “solid to good starting PG.” And that would be a huge upgrade for us on both sides of the ball. We both feel the Lakers would be lucky to get Tracy for such little money. The difference is I believe he will bounce back from his knee surgery to become a solid starter in the NBA again while you feel he most likley will contunie down the same road he has been on the last two years. Those last two years we saw him playing on a knee that required micro-fracture surgery in year 1 and subsequently a leg that was just operated on in year 2. At a worse case scenario… he will still be a better player this season than he was in each of the last two years. I also don’t have the same concerns about his health from here on out as he will finally be playing on two healthy legs and his game (much like Kobe’s) is no longer spent so high in the air. I hate to say it… but only time will tell.

  42. LakersFanSince69 July 6, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    My favorite Artest plays in the finals:

    1. Knee to Ray Allen’s thigh
    2. Forearm shiver to Rondo’s chin
    3. Body takeout of Nate Robinson

    Everybody talks about the great offensive plays Ron Ron made, but I think that these defensive plays standout. Allen didn’t shoot lights out again and Rondo sported some kind of tape on his chin for games 6 and 7. I love this kind of physical play -within the rules- that Ron Ron brought to bear.

    Well done!

    LFS69

  43. @45: Do you have links to #1 (Artest’s knee to Ray Allen) & #3 (Artest taking out Nate Robinson)? I can’t remember these moments :(

  44. Bosh and Wade have committed to Miami, as pretty much expected. I think Lebron stays in Cleveland, although I don’t think it’s the smart basketball move. Broussard is saying Lebron’s following to Miami.

    Honestly, it’s more fun as a basketball fan to watch Wade and Lebron go at it now that both have good teammates.

    My question now is who gets Mike Miller. He could be a great spacer for the Bulls, Wade/Bosh could really use a solid 3 like him, etc…Miller’s going to get more money thrown his way than he deserves.

    Nice tidy little list from the K Bros: http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/9135/the-lakers-to-do-list-how-its-shaping-up