The Los Angeles Lakers had little time to celebrate their 2009 championship. One of their key free agents, Trevor Ariza, is joining the Houston Rockets, while the Lakers are bringing in the services of the Rockets' Ron Artest.
According to ESPN, Ariza has made a verbal commitment to sign with the Houston Rockets. This announcement came about the time Ron Artest pronounced he would be signing with the Lakers, in a three-year deal worth $18 million.
Ariza is said to have been dissatsified with the Lakers offer of the midlevel exception and the contract with Houston will net him $33.5 million over five years. The Cleveland Cavaliers were suitors as well, and early reports said he would sign with the Cavs.
With the Lakers and Rockets essentially swapping Ariza for Artest, who is getting the better player?
Artest is proven over many seasons as a top notch defender, a good three-point shooter, and a scorer who hustles. His penchant for being crazy and a nuiscance was at an all-time low this season and that bodes well for a Laker team that should be able to garner his respect and attention with figures like Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant as his peers.
Ariza is a blossoming star. He hit clutch three-pointers, had key steals and defensive stops throughout the title run. The question is can he sustain this level of play throughout one or more seasons or was that his fifteen minutes of fame?
Perhaps next season we will see Ariza guarding Bryant and Artest guarding Ariza. In the short term I believe the Lakers got the best of this deal. Artest makes them that much tougher defensively, and gives them another person who can shoot threes and create his own offense. It's not a bad move for the Rockets either as Ariza has a big upside and is much younger. He should fit well with their roster.
The free agent summer of 2009 is already a memorable one with many contenders for next year's title positioning themselves and competing for players like Rasheed Wallace and Hedo Turkoglu.
The Lakers needed to keep up with the other improving contenders. The loss of Trevor Ariza should not effect the Lakers negatively as they signed Ron Artest who will fill many of the gaps left by Ariza's absence.