Friday, July 3, 2009

Lakers make faustian deal for Artest

1. The Lakers clearly have a win-now mentality, and with Kobe preparing for his 31st birthday next month, that makes sense. The move to acquire 29-year-old Ron Artest and let 24-year-old Trevor Ariza go would seem to support that theory, but it's only a marginal upgrade that could have a much greater long-term cost. Ariza raised his game significantly in the playoffs, justifying his midseason insertion into the starting lineup with clutch play and 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in the postseason. Artest's numbers were better, with 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists a night during the playoffs, but it would be hard to argue the former Defensive Player of the Year was any more effective at stopping people than Ariza. It's even harder to make a case that Artest is a better guy to have around the locker room, given his well-documented antics. He's never played with a superstar like Kobe before, and hasn't been surrounded by quite as much talent either. Ariza meshed quite effectively as a role player, and it remains to be seen whether Artest can do half as well as someone who is no more than a third offensive option behind Kobe and Pau Gasol. The Lakers will be paying Artest about the same amount of money Ariza is getting from the Rockets, but Artest gets three years instead of five on his contract. It makes little sense why Mitch Kupchak and the L.A. braintrust would balk at just two more years for someone who could have been a cornerstone for the next few years and the transition into the post-Kobe era. The next five years with Ariza could have at least ensured a 20-something would occupy one starting wing spot while Kobe aged. Artest turns 30 in November and will be entering his 11th NBA season. The only party that came out looking worse than the Lakers was Ariza himself, who goes from the champions of the league to a team that may just have lost Yao for good and is still awaiting Tracy McGrady's return from microfracture knee surgery. It hardly seems worth it, for either Ariza or the Lakers, given the difference of two years that appeared to be all that stood in the way of a better situation for both.

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