This early season matchup brought more interest than usual because of some offseason swapping of players including Ron Artest and Trevor Ariza.
Ariza would lead the Rockets in shot attempts taking 21 in the game but he connected on just five and totaled 15 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists.
Artest has not had to be the number one scoring option anymore but still matched Ariza with 15 points and also had six rebounds and made three 3-pointers.
The Lakers won the NBA title last season with Ariza playing a large role on the team. He was a starter, very good defender, reliable three point shooter, and just an all-around glue guy—something that championship teams tend to have a lot of.
The Lakers made the tough decision to let the young, up-and-coming star part ways and then they went in what has become a somewhat controversial direction by signing Artest.
Artest is known for his off court antics and for being a sort of cancer to the team he is on. But that will not be the case for him on the defending champions. Not with a leader like Kobe Bryant and head coach like Phil Jackson.
The criticism the Lakers have received for the signing is not deserved.
This is a league where you can never become complacent and stay the same no matter what kind of success you had the season before. Moves always have to be made if you want to stay on top and this is just what the Lakers did.
Some people will look at Ariza as a young star that could have grown into a greater star with the Lakers, but this is simply not the truth. Ariza is already peaking as a player and has never shown signs of being able to take the next step into stardom.
Ariza is a limited offensive player who struggles and rarely creates his own shot with the dribble. That’s something that all stars do and Ariza cannot. He is most effective when he is strictly a spot-up shooter and backdoor slasher.
The Lakers are losing a role player, but they are gaining a star.
Artest will bring a new dimension and element to the Lakers offensive and defensive front in the 2009-2010 NBA season.
There are no real weaknesses you can point at with a defending champ and Artest will do nothing to hurt that this season.
Instead he brings an added ball handler who can create his own looks. He is as good a three-point shooter as Ariza and has plenty of experience in late game situation. He is still a capable defender if not the shutdown perimeter stopper he once was. And his size has always caused defenses trouble and still will.
His biggest knock is that he is not a team-oriented player and is selfish. This is obviously not the case. Artest said he would have signed with the Lakers for a dollar if he had to and has been very clear that he wants nothing more than to win an NBA championship before his career is over.
That doesn’t sound like a selfish player to me. It is selfless and it has worked for other stars in similar situations in this league in recent history.
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen teamed up with Paul Pierce two years ago and eventually brought a championship back to Boston.
When star players want to make the sacrifice for the greater good, it almost always works out.
The Lakers are now 4-1 on the season and still very much the team to beat in the Western Conference and Artest is a huge part of that.
Artest is averaging 12 points per game and shooting slightly over 40 percent from the field but expect those numbers to rise as the season progresses and the former Defensive Player of the Year gets more comfortable with his new squad.