Ron Artest has recently announced that he will be signing with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers for 3 years and around $18 million. The Artest move trumps the Pistons move of signing of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. The Lakers have effectively upgraded the spot left open by Trevor Ariza, who is switching spots with Artest by leaving for Houston.
Other than age, Artest is better than Ariza at all critical parts of the game. He is more intense and effective on defense, a more prolific scorer on offense, and more likely to explode during the course of any game. This is all because Ariza felt “slighted” by the Lakers offer. Ariza, who averaged a startling 9 PPG (a career high), felt that he was worth more than the near $6 million mid-level exception that the champion Lakers offered.
The Artest-Kobe dynamic is one of the most exciting in the Association in many years. This is like the Bulls bringing in Dennis Rodman to aid Jordan and Pippen in their quest for a second three-peat. Artest is the antithesis of everything Kobe Bryant is. Kobe plays with a sense of class and superiority over the rest of his competition. Artest plays with the ruggedness that he grew up with while playing in the heart of New York. Everyone is questioning the how these two can coexist after they nearly started a brouhaha in the playoffs after Kobe landed an elbow to the throat of Artest. There will be no problems for the Lakers. Kobe will not let there be problems on his quest to win another ring. He struggled with Shaq when the Lakers were unsure of who the leader of the team would be. There is no question about who leads these Lakers.
The locker room could be volatile with the addition of Artest. Some would argue that it could lead to the destruction of the Lakers, and it could. Even if nothing happens, it is not a lock that the Lakers will bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy. Their defense will be formidable, as Kobe and Artest are capable of landing on the Defensive First Team. They will be able to lock up nearly any player in the Association. This is all predicated on Phil Jackson returning to the Lakers to coach at least one more year.
The Lakers and Rockets aren’t the only teams affected by the major signing of Ron Ron. The Cavs also had a very public interest in Artest, and slightly less interest in Ariza. The Lakers are now the favorite to win next year’s championship, stealing the Cavs interest and headlines. Contenders are now scrambling to add another piece to their teams to try to counteract the Artest acquisition. The Spurs and Celtics are competing with each other to acquire the skill set of Rasheed Wallace.
Rasheed on the Spurs or Celtics would more than counteract the addition of Artest on the Lakers. With either team, the lineup they could trot out on the court would be imposing. The Spurs in particular, already adding Richard Jefferson, could bring out Duncan, Rasheed, Jefferson, Ginobili, Parker, Finley, and Mason Jr. in any order Popovich pleases. The Celtics would also be more than impressive if Wallace decided to sign with Boston. Having Garnett, Wallace, Pierce, Allen, Rondo, Perkins, and Davis in rotation could easily wear down any opponent.
The addition of Wallace to either team immediately vaults those teams into championship contention. They are already better than the Magic after they foolishly let Hedo walk after trading for Vince Carter. Right now, the Celtics could defeat the Cavaliers if Garnett stays healthy and they earn home court throughout the playoffs. The Spurs could challenge the Lakers even if they don’t attain the services of Rasheed.
More compelling than all of the moves and potential moves of contenders is the possible move of the Memphis Grizzlies. Allen Iverson has expressed some interest in playing for the Grizzlies. Memphis would be one of my favorite teams in the Association next year with their loads of offensive talent and young blood. The combination of Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, and Iverson would lead to some beautifully bad basketball. They, the Grizzlies, would probably not make the playoffs, and probably be high in the lottery. Regardless, the Grizzlies would have players who know how to put numbers on the scoreboard. The defense would be laughable, scoring in the 100’s nearly every game for both teams. The possibilities are exciting.