Ron Artest Is Finding His Groove

Darius Soriano —  January 27, 2011

For most of the year, a topic of (at least some) concern has been the play of Ron Artest. In early December we covered the topic and ultimately came to the conclusion that Ron wasn’t playing as poorly as some of his numbers looked and that a lot of what we were judging Ron’s performances on were based on comparisons to the strong play of Barnes and the fact that the Lakers were missing Bynum.

Well, since both of those factors have changed in recent weeks (Barnes has been out injured and Bynum has since returned) I thought now would be a good time to take another look at Artest and see if his performance has changed with different circumstances.

Low and behold, his performance has indeed changed. And it’s done so for the better. Below are some of Artest’s offensive numbers for the season and then for the past 8 games (when Barnes has been out with his knee injury):

Season: 28 mpg, 8.3 points, 41.2% FG, 39.3% 3point FG, 50.2% True Shooting
Last 8 games: 35mpg, 11 points, 49.2% FG, 43.8% 3point FG, 63% True Shooting

Granted, the increase in points per game can easily be attributed to his jump in minutes. But what about the increased efficiency? Artest has been shooting the ball much better from both two and three point distance and it’s reflected in his 13% jump in true shooting (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 3 pointers and FT’s). And when watching him, it’s obvious that he’s so much more comfortable on offense than he’s been all season. Gone (for the most part) is the indecisiveness when he has the ball in his hands and he is working within the offense better than he has all season. Several times a game now he’s making excellent reads on when to dive into the post and his teammates are noticing by delivering the ball to him in prime position to score. When on the perimeter, he’s no longer second guessing on when to shoot but rather firing away when the shot presents himself – though still showing good patience and recognition on what’s a good shot and what’s not.  While it’d be a stretch to say he’s a completely different player, he’s worlds ahead of where he was 6 weeks ago.

And it’s not just on offense that I’ve seen an improvement in Ron’s game. In the linked post on him from earlier this year, we mentioned that his focus on D wasn’t quite the same as it was last season. Well, that’s no longer the case. In this recent stretch (and before it too, actually) Ron’s defense has again been completely smothering. He’s pressuring ball handlers, getting deflections, and working as hard as ever off the ball by bodying his man and making him uncomfortable. Against the Jazz the Lakers announcers mentioned several times how “you can’t play around with the ball with Artest on you” in reacting to how much trouble C.J. Miles was having whenever he tried to use his dribble to attack Ron. I really can’t say enough about how disruptive he’s been in swiping at the ball when players are tying to make a move and forcing miss dribbles that ultimately lead to turnovers.

And while there are likely several reasons for Ron’s improved play, I don’t think you can discount the fact that without Barnes to soak up minutes at SF, Ron no longer has anyone over his shoulder looking to take substantial minutes from him. This allows him to play much more like last season where he often had to work through mistakes or stretches of below average play, giving him the chance to find any lost rhythm more quickly. This can often lead to a calmer, more focused player and the results that come with that.

Whatever the reasons though, it’s just great to see Ron playing better and contributing to the team’s success. In his first season and a half with the team I think we can all agree that few players care about winning or compete as hard as Ron. Personally, I love to see players rewarded for that type of determination and lately that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing. Hopefully, when Barnes returns, we see this same level of play as that would go a long way towards helping the Lakers reach their ultimate goal.

Darius Soriano

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24 responses to Ron Artest Is Finding His Groove

  1. Great read Darius… Watching Artest attack a ball handler in person is the seventh wonder of the world

  2. I haven’t watched most of the games lately, which game would offer the best example of Ron Artest defense? I love to watch that…

  3. What just occurred to me was that last year was the first time Ron went really deep into the playoffs. The finals is a different animal – both in intensity and in when in the calendar year it is played.

    Perhaps part of Ron’s problem this year – along with the presence of Barnes – is that he is coming back to competitive play much sooner than in past years. Defense probably takes more out of players than does offense and Ron was our key defensive stopper for high-flying wing players all during the playoffs, never mind the Boston series.

    Now he has adjusted, there is less/no pressure from Barnes and he also has to ramp up for the playoffs.

  4. #2. Ron had a good defensive game against Durant in the most recent OKC game (KD went 8-24 from the field). He also played well against Denver (Melo was 10-24) though some of the struggles that Anthony experienced were due to other defenders (Kobe had a good stretch on him as did Walton).

  5. There have been several instances in recent games in which Ron has gone to the post, or faked a three-pointer and stepped into a closer shot. Plays like that go a long way toward helping both him and the team, since they often result in a better look for Ron and at the same team force the defense to think, “What’s he going to do?”

    When Ron simply stands on the perimeter and hopes to get a chance to shoot a three, both he and the Lakers as a whole become much, much easier to defend.

    Obviously the Lakers have no shortage of players who can be run down to the block, but it’s good to see Ron get a few chances at post play per game. Even if it’s just two or three sets, those few looks down low do a lot to alter the defense. Plus, if he gets a smaller guy on him — like we saw with Arron Afflalo — the potential for really easy looks goes up even more.

  6. JAVARIS CRITTENTON NEWS

    After getting cut by the Bobcats in training camp (and dealing with the stigma surrounding him as a member of the Gilbert Arenas locker-room gun incident last season), Javaris Crittenton headed to China to play.

    But he was released by his team last month.

    And now, according to sources close to the situation communicating with Scott Schroeder of FanHouse, Crittenton has signed a contract to play in the D-League.

    Schroeder writes that the Dakota Wizards, at the top of the D-League waiver wire, are expected to claim him.

    At only 23 years of age, a strong showing in the D-League could net him either a 10-day contract this season or a training camp invite next fall in hopes of making a final NBA team roster next season.

  7. I concur completely with Chris J.

    I would add only that I think some of Ron’s hesitancy has been his desire to fit in and do the right thing. How often have we seen him on the perimeter this year, pounding the ball into the floor? Not much and I know a lot of people were worried about that. He’s changed his style and as the title of this post suggests it has simply taken some time for him to find his groove.

    I thought I read a quote by Jackson that Ron was also taking himself out of games to give more time to Barnes. If true – that’s a guy who gets the concept of team.

  8. If you have HD please turn on TNT right now. They started filming in widescreen. So the shots are much closer up. It makes a big difference. It makes my big screen look even bigger. Lebron looks like a monster. Oh… Right.

  9. watching the miami knicks game, im amazed how after 7 years in the league lebron still has zero low post game

  10. LBJ may be fooling us all and actually unveil a very sophisticated post game on us when pushed really hard. Or not.

    But I don’t see a problem with him not developing a post game, as long as he’s not one of our Lakers.

  11. new york have had so many chances to win this game, frustrating

  12. heat half court offense is terrible right now, iso wade, iso lebron, iso wade, iso lebron…

  13. this heat knicks game really makes me appreciate phil’s coaching style. spoelstra and dantoni are both running around like a chicken with its head cut off it is so annoying they are literally on the court. this should be penalized by the league. Phil on the other hand is so calm and collected

  14. With the Knicks win, I’m more amicable to those pushing Amare for MVP ;)

    As for the all-star selection… the HC for the West being Pop, does that mean that he’ll choose Odom over TD/Parker/Ginobili just so he can give his guys some rest while taxing ours? I won’t put it past him…

  15. 14. Pop only selects the starter from the subs, stern will select the other player

  16. If memory serves me, things changed after that little skirmish between Phil and Ron. I’d agree that there’s a lot of factors to somebody’s improved play and the extra minutes as well as the extra need for him to be a factor, played a major part. But, I have to think that Phil’s motivation also mattered.

  17. After watching NY and Miami play I have come to the conclusion that the Nuggets would be crazy to trade with NY for Carmelo. NY has jack squat. They barely beat Miami, who had an ailing LeBrawn and no Chris Bosh. Their defense sucks, the can’t hit an open shot, and they have no center. If I’m Melo, I don’t even want to play for them.

  18. #17 – the Nuggets are sort of at a spot of no return and they don’t have a lot of viable trade scenarios coming their way. Plus, the whole mess has dragged on so long, I think they just want to be done with it. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jersey deal return… there could be a little smokescreen action going on.

  19. Great post about Ron. I agree. He seems much more at ease on offense. As you said, he hesitated a lot on outside shots and now he seems to have relaxed, hit his sweet spot, so to speak, on hte offense. I don’t know why-I think Ron is such a high-strung individual that sometimes he probably doesn’t even know why, but I imagine that Ron knows he has to step up to cover a bit for the loss of Matt Barnes and he’s never had a shortage of commitment to his team. And I fully agree with the comments about his D also. As you said, the commentators noted several times what a blanket he was putting on CJ Miles, and also in that Oklahoma game, he gave KD all that he could handle. So happy for Ron.

  20. 17, While I agree with you that NY has jack squat to trade with, I disagree that the Knicks your assessment of their team. They have at minimum 5 solid rotation players (Felton, Chandler, Gallinari, Stoudemire, Fields), and 3 serviceable bench guys (Turiaf, Douglas, Azubuike). Ideally, you would want Chandler and Fields coming off the bench, but Felton, Gallinari, and Stoudemire are all quality starting players at their positions (PG, SF, PF).

    They still need a quality center, but what team doesn’t other than the Lakers? And they’ve been in a collective shooting slump over their last 6-7 games (evidenced by my fantasy teams). But they’re not a terrible team.

  21. @20. That looked like a school yard game. People running up and down the court, not set plays. Just ISO and pull. It was terrible. They have parts but they don’t play as a team. They have been winning on shear athletisism. What defensive strategy do they employ?

    The three starters you mentioned are fine but Gallinari would be traded to Denver for Melo. Who would be their defensive stopper then? Center? They would get eaten alive by the Celts and Orlando. Miami, not until Haslem comes back.

    As far as the bench Azubuike has been injured all year long and Turiaf looks lost in NY. He doesn’t have the same fire there, he looks scared as evidenced by his reaction after LeBrawn blocked his shot.

    I didn’t call NY garbage, I just think that Denver is currently better by FAR.

  22. @ 18. Denver will acquiesce and accept the trade that does not include getting rid of Al Harrington. If Al is included, Denver will have to take Travis Outlaw in return. That may not be bad because that would give New Jersey more scoring punch.

  23. I’d like to see a game against the Heat where Ron is clearly the winner in the matchup between him and Lebron.

  24. Hooray, trade talk again! So where is Warren? :)

    A factor in the Denver NY trade that has nothing to do with numbers but that still needs to be considered is that from all appearances, and from the way he is behaving, Carmelo Anthony doesn’t want to stay in Denver and he has absolutely no interest in being a part of the team. To keep a player with that mindset in the locker room, where he clearly won’t get along with the other players and will continue to poison the team chemistry, is in the long run going to hurt the Nuggets as a team. It is in their best interest to get rid of him, and they may actually be willing to take a trade that on paper looks bad, just to remove a poisonous influence from their locker room so they can start rebuilding.