There is something very familiar about all this.
“You can take the man out of crazy, but you can't take the crazy out of Ron Artest." – Me
I wrote the above sentence during the second round series against Houston
and when a Kobe elbow to Artest’s chest sent the crazy man loose. That lunatic is now wearing purple and gold. Should I be excited? Afraid? Unsure? Overjoyed? Make plans for another parade down Figueroa? If recent history is to be acknowledged, none of it matters. Ron Artest is who he is. You’re getting 15-18 points a game and lock down on the ball defense. But you’re also getting technical fouls, overreaction and sprinkled bouts of rage. In other words, the Lakers just got engaged to the hot chick with an extra side of crazy. Sure, all you’re friends will be jealous, but don’t get upset when you wake up in the middle of the night and she’s standing in the dark watching over you and says “I just like to watch you sleep.”
The Lakers had to make this move. Reports suggest that they didn’t even really try to sign Ariza. How could Mitch Kupchak let his rising star go without even offering him a contract? Well, he didn’t just let him go; he practically packed his bags for him. The second Ron Artest became an option, the Lakers had no choice. Ron Artest is one of the top 20 players in the NBA, and top 10 defensively.
As promising as Ariza’s career appears to be, by not resigning him, the Lakers have sent the message loud and clear that they are playing for "now." Kobe Bryant is not getting any younger. As legendary as his workout regime is and as talented as he is, the body can only do so much. Little is mentioned of the fact that Kobe’s game has changed drastically in the past few years. He is a jump shooter with rare trips to the bucket. He does this because a) he scores 28 points/game doing so b) understands his career will last longer by not letting defenders punish him in the post c) he’s better at what he does than anyone else in the league. He also has become more of a rover on defense. This is where Artest is most valuable to the Lakers. He can guard the other team’s best player allowing Kobe to sag off of the opponent’s worst shooter and play the best help defense in the league.
I think back to the recent finals against the Celtics and how Artest would change that entire series. Would Paul Pierce have been able to dominate the way he did with Crazy man Artest guarding him? Probably not. Would the Celtics still have won? Maybe. The point being, Artest may well change Kobe Bryant’s career forever. The comparison of Kobe vs. Jordan is inane. Who’s the harder worker can be argued, but not who’s the better player. What if the Lakers three peat? Six championships for Jordan. Six championships for Kobe. Is it so far fetched?
The argument just got a whole lot more plausible. Now where did I put my crazy pills?
Monday, July 6, 2009