Last Thursday, it was announced that the Los Angeles Lakers had signed Ron Artest to a three year deal. On the surface, it seemed that the Lakers had made a safe, logical move in the signing the veteran forward to shore up their already stellar starting five. But in looking deeper into the move, several issues arise that could add up to be enough to derail the club's repeat aspirations.
The most obvious issue with the acquisition was the fact that the Artest move meant that the Lakers would not be able to resign Trevor Ariza. And though some would argue that Artest is in some ways simply a better, more polished version of Ariza, Artest will be hard pressed to provide the athleticism and versatility that was so crucial to L.A.'s title run.
Additionally, Artest showed some clear physical signs of decline last season with the Rockets. He lacked the quickness to guard opposing teams' top players as he had so often earlier in his career, and seemed less and less comfortable creating his own shot as the season wore on. Because of this, in Los Angeles he will be asked to be more of a complementary player than he has ever been, a role that will undoubtedly take some time to get used to.
And of course, as anybody who has followed the NBA even marginally for the past few years will surely attest, Ron-Ron's mental stability is the ultimate wild card in this move. Artest did seem more under control this season than ever before this past season, something that was surely not lost on Lakers' bosses Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak, but he remains as much of a loose cannon as any other player in the league.
Artest and Lakers star Kobe Bryant had more than a few run ins this season, including a pair of memorable spats during the conference semifinal. Artest's ability to coexist with his rival turned teammate will be crucial to the team's success.
Ultimately, none of these reasons could surface and Artest could be one of the best third or fourth options in the league. But if and when the Lakers encounter some bumps in the road to their sixteenth championship, you can be certain that more than a few fingers will be pointed in Artest's direction.
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