Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Championship decided a very competitive series between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers triumphed as victorious in a championship series led by future hall of famer Kobe Bryant, the three-headed monster Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, veteran point guard Derek Fisher and defensive stopper Ron Artest.
Although Artest is known for his defense, game seven allowed the forward to shine offensively, scoring 20 points while logging over 45 minutes. Despite Artest's long wish to win a championship, he raffled off his ring to raise money for mental health charities. The sign of maturity seemed like a long coming from the head case with a notorious past of getting into trouble.
Halfway into the season, it seems Artest is not as happy as he was last year. His intensity has decreased while his play seemed to decline this season. While Artest may just need inspiration to play better, he may not see much more time in a Lakers uniform. Sources close to Artest told ESPN.com that he wants to be traded.
The Lakers have recently made it known that they are willing to entertain trade offers and may need to make a transaction to make the team better. The team does not have many great trade pieces. The purple and gold seem to want to keep their core of Bryant, Bynum, Odom, Gasol and Fisher together and trading players like Shannon Brown, Steve Blake and the injured Matt Barnes could hurt the team's depth.
Artest, Luke Walton, Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff may be expendable but none of their contracts are great trade pieces.
What should the Lakers do?
Not many teams will be willing to take a chance on a problematic player like Ron Artest on the decline for the next four years or a player like Walton who is very overpaid as a role player that won't see much playing time. Smith and Ratliff don't provide much value to teams willing to deal and if teams were interested in acquiring them, their contracts don't add up to anything to make a deal that makes sense financially.
At this point, if Ron Artest truly wants out of LA, the Lakers' main focus should be moving the defensive stopper. There is no room on the team for a player that is not performing to his potential and doesn't want to play for his current team. Two players that could make sense for the Lakers to acquire are Richard Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich.
The biggest obstacle in trading for these players would be to hope that the Pistons or Wizards would take on four years of Artest, or two years if he declines his player option after next season.
Since Richard Hamilton is no longer in the rotation for the Pistons and it looks like he won't be able to heal his relationship with the organization, a trade would make sense for both sides. Hinrich has also been on the trading block for the Wizards and could be had for the right price.
Lakers - Pistons trade:
Lakers acquire: Richard Hamilton
Pistons acquire: Ron Artest, Luke Walton, draft pick
Why it makes sense for LA: Los Angeles trades two bad contracts in Artest and Walton. They receive a veteran guard with playoff experience that can score and use his speed to play good defense.
Why it makes sense for Detroit: Detroit trades a player with a bad relationship that can't be healed and no longer have to keep the contract of Rip Hamilton of $12 million over the next three seasons. Since the Pistons would have to take on two bad contracts, they will most likely demand a draft pick from the Lakers to help continue their youth movement.
Lakers - Wizards trade:
Lakers acquire: Kirk Hinrich
Wizards acquire: Ron Artest, Theo Ratlif, first round draft pick
Why it makes sense for LA: The Lakers acquire a defensive-minded veteran guard. Hinrich could play both point guard and shooting guard and on top of lockdown defense, he is a pretty good distributor that can shoot well from the free-throw line, three-point line and from the field.
Why it makes sense for Washington: Since the Lakers covet Hinrich, the Wizards have leverage and could demand a first round draft pick. They acquire height in Theo Ratliff, who is mainly included to make salaries work. Artest could get a new start in Washington and may help them actually win a road game.
Although the Lakers don't need to make a trade and their struggles could be resolved within the organization, it is unhealthy for team chemistry to keep a head case like Ron Artest if he doesn't want to stay. The Lakers should hop on the opportunity of acquiring veterans like Hinrich and Hamilton since they are available.
What's your call Lakers fans? To trade, or not to trade?