Swing and a Miss: Ariza Better than Artest According to Plaschke

Josh BAnalyst IJuly 4, 2009

This is the start of what I hope to be a series that breaks down all the stupid basketball articles I can find. (BR articles are immune. Don't worry. And I know, the series has a baseball name and it's about basketball. Shut up.)

The first column is from Bill Plaschke of the LA Times. You may recognize him as the guy on "Around the Horn" with the egg-shaped head who says the Dodgers are better without Manny Ramirez.

This is not to suggest that all who share Plaschke's view are stupid or even wrong, but the way he goes about arguing his point is not too smart.

"Less than three weeks after the parade, the NBA champion Lakers have already met the biggest threat to their throne.


What are they thinking? What are they doing?"

Well, I'm just a blogger so what do I know? But from the looks of it I'd say that the Lakers are trying to improve.

"They just won a title that would not have been possible without the strong defense and stunning shooting of a 24-year-old kid with a limitless ceiling."

Plaschke is referring to Trevor Ariza, who was just signed by the Rockets. There are many good things to say about Ariza, but "limitless ceiling" is not one of them.

"Yet they send the kid packing for an aging nut whose greatest hits have occurred on the heads of fans."

Ron Artest is 29, a year and three months younger than Kobe Bryant. As for being a nut, are people really still talking about an incident that occurred five years ago?

Come on. Michael Jordan hit Steve Kerr in practice. Randy Johnson hit a teammate to get out of Seattle. Unless you were hit by Artest, you need to get over it.

"They just won a title with a locker room bathed in the soothing light of unselfishness, teamwork and a quiet temerity."

And that's exactly how you could describe Artest with the Rockets. In fact, Artest might be better than Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming when you take his defense into account.

"Yet they cut the power and added the darkest of moods, a guy who has made a career out of hoarding the ball, the attention, and the anger."

Hoarding the ball? Artest is usually the guy who wants to assist the top scorer, the guy who wants to guard the other team's best player, and he does both of those very well. The only times he's angry seems to be when he's the main guy on a losing team, which won't be the case with the Lakers.

"Tell me again, why did they get rid of Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest?"

Because Artest is better and comes with a cheaper contract.

"Explain to me, please, why they wouldn't even negotiate further with Trevor Ariza before quickly agreeing to sign Ron Artest?"

They negotiated with Ariza and offered him the same contract as Artest, but Ariza wanted more. Why sign an inferior player for more money?

"Artest is a better player,"


"but that's not the point."

I'm not sure if there is a point in this article. There certainly hasn't been so far.

"Ariza was a better fit, and that's what wins championships."

What about two Finals ago when Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were inconsistent and Bryant didn't have a secondary player to help him. Isn't that a bit more important than having Ariza, who at best is the fifth best player on a championship team?

"Artest is a strong defender, but if the Lakers need someone to quietly hound a guy during a routine inbounds pass and be willing to make a small play to win a big game, that's Ariza."

Who's better at hounding a guy on an inbound pass than Artest?

"Artest is a good shooter, but if the Lakers need someone willing to stand in the shadows for three quarters and emerge to make a big three-pointer before disappearing again, that's Ariza."

I've never heard of "disappearing" as a good quality of a basketball player, but then again, that might be why I'm not paid to write.

"Artest will supposedly make the Lakers tougher, but what is tougher than showing up every day and playing hard every play and fighting your way to a championship?"

So does Ariza disappear or does he "play hard on every play?" First of, kudos on the word choice in that quote. Second of all, Artest might be the hardest working defender in basketball.

"Ariza has a ring, Artest does not, so the Lakers are giving up wins."

Robert Horry has seven championships. Michael Jordan has six. Adam Morrison has a ring. LeBron James has none. Horry > Jordan and Morrison > James.

"Ariza is young 24, Artest is an old 29, so the Lakers are giving up age."

Now you're just repeating the age argument, which is easily proven wrong. Unless of course, Bryant is now past his prime.

"Ariza shot 48% from the three-point line in the playoffs while Artest shot 28%, so the Lakers are giving up clutch."

The Lakers usually go to Bryant or Derek Fisher before relying on Ariza for a clutch shot. Ariza scores his points when Bryant is double-teamed. In fact, Bryant will be double-teamed less frequently with Artest, giving Bryant more opportunities for clutch shots.

"The one thing the Lakers are absolutely gaining here is money, which is exactly what you will be paying them in increasing increments next season."

Real professional. Now you're discouraging people from going to Lakers games.

"Artest will sign a three-year deal for about $18 million, roughly the same annual salary that the Houston Rockets gave Ariza.

But Ariza was given two more years by the Rockets, pushing his total closer to $33 million."

You've already admitted that Artest is a better player. Now you're saying that Ariza is more expensive. This isn't really helping your argument.

"Heaven forbid you would want to give a rising young star two more years, or spend some of your roughly $1 million-per-game playoff bounty to do it!"

Is there a dictionary nearby? Look up "star." Bryant is a star. Dwight Howard is a star. Gasol is not a star. This would lead most to believe that Ariza will definitely never be a star.

"Jerry Buss should have opened the pockets a little wider. And Mitch Kupchak should have jogged the memory a little deeper."

The Lakers are currently on the top in payroll. And if any memory needs to be jogged, it's your's, Plaschke. Have you watched a single game with Ariza?

"Remember the last time the Lakers made a postseason acquisition of an aging star that appeared to give them an embarrassment of riches and render them unbeatable?

The year was 2004, and they signed two of them, Gary Payton and Karl Malone, and you know what happened next. By the end of the season, the fractured chemistry imploded in a Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons that was so awful, afterward seemingly half the team either quit or was traded."

Malone and Payton didn't hurt the Lakers. The Lakers missed the Finals in the previous year and got there the next year. Without Malone and Payton, they're eliminated by the Spurs again, and this time in the second round.

"Like Malone and Payton, Artest is a great acquisition in a fantasy league. But this is reality, and nothing in NBA history has ever been quite like Artest's reality."

So what makes him worse than Ariza? All I see in here is that Ariza can do some sort of disappearing act that helps the Lakers.

"Everyone knows how, as an Indiana Pacer, he was suspended for 73 regular-season games and the postseason after going into the stands to confront fans and later punching one on the floor.

A long time ago, huh? Yeah, all of five years."

A real long time ago. Back when the Suns, Pistons, and Heat were great. When the Hornets sucked and the Cavaliers were irrelevant. When Steve Nash was MVP and Emeka Okafor was the next big thing.

"Did you know that he has also once shown up for practice in a bathrobe, asked to take a month off because he was tired, and been jailed for 10 days for domestic assault?"

What does this have to do with basketball?

"Everyone said he was a changed man when he was traded from the Pacers to the Sacramento Kings, but he was suspended for a playoff game in 2006 for a flagrant elbow, and the Kings lost that series to the San Antonio Spurs in six games."

This was the same year that Artest took a team that wasn't expected to make the playoffs to the sixth game as the eight seed. Bryant was also suspended from a playoff game and he's a year older than the "aging" Artest. What good is he? All he did was lead the Lakers to a championship.

"Everyone said he changed again when he joined the Rockets, but in this spring's playoff series against the Lakers, he was thrown out of two games while finishing the series hitting 17 of 61 shots in the last four games."

He also kept the Rockets in that series with the help of really only Shane Battier.

"And Trevor Ariza has done what, exactly? Agree to come off the bench? Agree to guard the team's best shooter? Agree to take that shot when Bryant couldn't?"

Artest won't need to come off the bench, he has always guarded the team's best shooter, and it's not like he'll decline to take shots.

"Ariza's only NBA mistake occurred this week, when he followed the lead of his misguided agent, David Lee. By joining the Rockets as a miscast free-agent star, the kid now faces the possibility of a career filled with disillusionment and mediocrity, not to mention anonymity."

Artest joins the Rockets and they're championship contendors. Ariza joins the Rockets and he's destined for mediocrity. I thought this guy had "limitless potential."

"Ariza was more valuable to the Lakers than to anyone else. This was his home, his comfort zone, the perfect spot for a supporting actor to shine from the wings."

So he's a role player, rather than Artest who could play a major role if Bryant is injured or if Gasol isn't reliable.

"Why didn't Ariza realize this? And why couldn't the Lakers have given him more time to realize this? This agreement occurred within two days of the start of the free-agent period.

Couldn't the Lakers have given him a chance to come to his senses?

Couldn't they have met somewhere in the middle?"

Yes, and they could have spent more on a player destined for mediocrity rather than on a player who will make them better.

"But, no, a flashy guy in a funky haircut beckoned, and the Lakers bit, trading heart for Hollywood, quiet strength for false bravado, a rock for a hard place."

As I said earlier, Artest is happiest when he's out of the spotlight, like with the Rockets. And that's exactly what he is with the Lakers. He's not flashy at all. Artest is a scrappy, hard-working player. Are we really using haircuts to judge players?

"While Lakers fans are now faced with an unsettled title defense, there is a shining word of certainty for every other fan who recently watched the NBA's next dynasty while shouting "Break up the Lakers."


I would have suggested a different approach to this article. I would have written more than a few lines about why Ariza is better than Artest. But maybe that's just not possible.

This article can be found on mvn.com/celtics17.


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