Two more cents on Ron Artest

By Jason Wojciechowski on July 13, 2008 at 5:35 PM

Let me, really quickly, just throw in two more cents on Odom for Artest and Thomas. What's the stated reason for the Lakers doing the deal? The media reports are never about worries that Odom can't play the small forward position, while Artest's position is small forward. No, the reports are always about "toughness" and "getting punked" (as Marc Stein put it). This, not to put too fine a point on it, is stupid. The Lakers won the West last year. They rolled through the playoffs handily. Did you notice who they played in the playoffs? Utah and San Antonio (along with Denver). Those aren't teams that routinely test your toughness? Those aren't teams that hammer you inside? Yet nobody questioned the "toughness" of the Lakers all year, during the regular season or the playoffs, until Boston beat them. So is Boston really so super-awesome-tough that the Lakers just couldn't handle it, despite winning eight out of eleven games against Utah and San Antonio? Despite winning some of those games on the road? No, really, they're not. Boston was just better. Ray Allen shot like the Ray Allen of old, Paul Pierce played at the top of his game, and the role players all chipped in. Boston rebounded better than the Lakers, and they defended the paint against L.A.'s inside scoring (Pau, Kobe, and Lamar), but were they tougher? Or were Pau's rebounding weaknesses, Lamar's penchant to use his length instead of his strength, and Kobe's inability to go 1-on-5 (not to mention the wild inconsistency in defensive three seconds calls) the real reasons for Boston's interior dominance?

You know where I stand on this. Ron Artest is a perimeter player. He might bring "toughness", but he also brings mediocre jump shooting and a complete absence of rebounding. Sure, he can guard Paul Pierce, but the Lakers are only playing Paul Pierce twice next year. (Mark my words. Especially if they do this deal -- I don't think L.A. gets back to the Finals if Artest is on the team, and I don't think Boston gets back to the Finals at all, whether James Posey is back or not.) So why not keep the better player who's actually been on the team, knows the offensive and defensive schemes, and now has serious recent playoff experience. (The last time Artest was in the playoffs was 2006, and the only time he's been out of the first round was 2004. He's never been to the Finals.)