Kobe Bryant will no longer have to worry about Ron Artest guarding him in the playoffs. ESPN has reported the rugged Artest is leaving the Houston Rockets to sign with the defending champs, in a three-year deal worth $18 million.
Artest texted ESPN: "I am happy to say, I am going to LA." The move seems to ensure that free agent Trevor Ariza will likely sign with another team, possibly Cleveland or Houston.
Artest should bring defense, tenacity, three-point shooting and another player able to create his own points. This deal solidifies the Lakers chance to repeat as several other contenders have bolstered their lineups through trades and free agent signings, including the San Antonio Spurs, who traded for Richard Jefferson and are said to be courting Rasheed Wallace.
Even with the improvements of other teams the Lakers should enter next season as the favorites to win it all again. Imagine a starting lineup of: Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Artest, Bryant and Derek Fisher/Jordan Farmar.
The Lakers may still be looking to upgrade their point guard position. If the Lakers had a weakness last season it was the tendency to have defensive lapses. Artest should improve the overall defensive commitment and level of intensity.
This was a great signing by the Lakers at a time when many other contending teams have made trades and signings to put the pressure on. The rest of the offseason will be exciting as the upper echelon teams of the league maneuver to gain whatever advantage they can find. With Artest the Lakers have solidified their hold as the favorites to repeat.