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Los Angeles Lakers: The Ron Artest Experiment

Josh HoffmanCorrespondent IMay 1, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY - APRIL 22: Ron Artest #37 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on from the bench against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs on April 22, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

His hair is ugly.

His 2010 playoff numbers are even uglier.

An 18.5-percent postseason clip from three-point land makes you wonder why the Los Angeles Lakers did not make more of a run to re-sign Trevor Ariza, who shot nearly 48 percent from downtown during last year's playoff push.

Since signing with the Lakers last summer, Ron Artest has been critiqued and questioned, doubted and dared.

First it was his ability—or lack thereof—to belong, to conform, to transform, from a disconcerted star into a composed commoner.

Then it was his Christmas night concussion. Was this the first of frequent frenzies? How would he respond? Heck, would he respond at all?

And now, with the Lakers one win away from thwarting the Oklahoma City Thunder from the playoffs after Artest posted his most productive offensive output in Game Five—14 points on 6-for-11 shooting—the critical wolves keep howling.

Is Ron Artest a faulty fit for the triangle offense?

Does he create spacing and balance problems? Why is he averaging almost 10 less points per game during this postseason than in all of his previous five appearances?

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Throughout his career, Artest has been asked to make plays, either for himself or for his teammates.

He has never been the prettiest of playmakers or the flashiest of foes, but Artest's size and strength enables him to get to where he wants on the hardwood, create space and ultimately put the ball in the basket or find one of the other four guys for an open look.

Artest is perhaps most effective in the mid-to-low post position, where his brute force and low center of gravity allow him to work his way into the lane, either for an easy deuce or a trip to the charity stripe.

Once he establishes himself on the inside, Artest then becomes a bigger threat on the perimeter, where he can take many defenders off the dribble and muscle them out of his route to the rim or otherwise free himself for a step-back jump shot.

Wherever he is working, Artest's offensive arsenal does not include the one aspect that the Lakers have asked—or rather, forced—him to embrace: the spot-up game. There are plenty of players who thrive in such a role. Ariza was one of them.

Artest is not. Especially in the triangle offense, which is incredibly confining.

While it is an ingenious offense when executed correctly, the triangle requires precise positioning, which can limit a player's options if his strengths are not utilized within it.

Artest may have lost a step or two on the perimeter, but his interior fortitude is still very much the forefront of his success.

Yet, when was the last time the Lakers made a conscious effort to put Artest in the post?

That question may be left unanswered—and so too should those about his ineffective offense, because they should have never been asked to begin with.

You can contact Josh Hoffman at JHoffMedia@gmail.com.

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