During the 2009 NBA Playoffs…
Trevor Ariza shot 50% from the floor. Ron Artest shot 39%.
Trevor Ariza shot 48% from the arc. Ron Artest shot 28%.
Trevor Ariza was 2nd in the playoffs in steals (behind Kobe Bryant), 3rd in 3 point field goals, and 5th in effective field goal shooting. Ron Artest doesn’t appear on the playoff leader board at all.
Trevor Ariza made clutch defensive stops again and again for the Lakers. Ron Artest, a supposed lock down defender, made boneheaded decisions that resulted in technical fouls and ejections.
Trevor Ariza knows the intricacies of the triangle offense and is productive in it. Ron Artest doesn’t, and frankly doesn’t have a reputation for being the brightest bulb in the ceiling.
Trevor Ariza is young and getting better. Ron Artest is declining.
Ron Artest is a stronger BRAND name than Trevor Ariza, but Trevor is the better player — especially for the Lakers.
What is Artest going to give the Lakers that Ariza couldn’t? Defense? No, Ariza is perhaps the Lakers best defender. Shooting? Uh, no. Toughness? Sorry, Ariza has that too.
Some people are accusing Ariza of “getting greedy.” Interestingly, Trevor Ariza turned down more money to play with the Toronto Raptors. Was Ariza greedy, or were the Lakers cheap?
Perhaps Trevor opted for Houston instead of Toronto in order to get more games against the Lakers so he can make them pay for not paying to keep him.
The Lakers may still win a championship with Artest instead of Ariza, but they didn’t make themselves better with this move.
Think about it: when the Lakers lost to the Celtics, the chorus sang, “Wait until Andrew Bynum gets better!”
But this year, Bynum was a complete non-factor for the Lakers. The Lakers biggest improvement came at the 3 spot (small forward) when Trevor Ariza healed and began playing well on both ends of the court.
The Rockets should improve with Trevor Ariza. Remember, the Rockets, without Tracy McGrady and then without Yao Ming gave the Lakers the hardest time in the 2009 playoffs. With Ariza, they get a better shooter than Artest, and a very good defender still.
The Lakers lost a selfless team player who won’t pout if he doesn’t get shots, who is a great defender (especially in the clutch), for the person who ruined Houston’s offense in the playoffs more than any other Rocket. Artest over dribbled the ball constantly, especially late in the game, then hucked up poor shots against the shot clock and Lakers defense (often Trevor Ariza).
It is possible that acquiring Artest will take shots from Gasol.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Artest is necessarily a BAD acquisition, I’m saying it wasn’t as good as if they could have found a way to keep Ariza.
And the evidence points to the possibilty that the Lakers could have easily kept Ariza. Ariza turned down more money from the Toronto Raptors and signed with Houston for about the same money he was offered by the Lakers.
Why was the Lakers’ offer unattractive and the Rockets’ acceptable?
“It was never about the money,” said Ariza, “It was about respect.”
By all appearances, the Lakers weren’t lowballing Ariza, but playing hardball: “Take our offer, or we’ll just go get Artest.”
— EDIT: The following was added on July 4, 2009:
What does Phil Jackson think of the Ariza / Artest situation?
“I wasn’t given the either or [the choice between Ariza and Artest]. I know Ron has been on our wish list for what, 3 years now? We needed a defender besides — I mean somebody that was a lock down defender besides Kobe Bryant that could take on the chores, and, you know, Trevor turned out to be that guy this year.
“And so I was quite surprised, as was most of our fans I think, that, you know, negotiations did not go well with Trevor and his people. “
“And uh, you know, we think we have a player [in Ron Artest] that has probably a little more dimensions than Trevor, but still Trevor has that youth and that speed that we’ll miss.”
— Phil Jackson to FSR’s Myers and Hartman
Far more interesting, however…
Prior to the Lakers acquiring Artest, Phil Jackson told KLAC/570 that after the Lakers eliminated the Rockets from the playoffs in game six of the Westen Conference Semi-Finals, Ron Artest “eagerly” sought out Phil Jackson for an awkward meeting…in the Lakers’ locker room shower!
“Ron said, ‘Coach, I can help your team. I can help you get that championship,'” Jackson said.
“He’s an unknown,” Jackson said. “He’s a player that even I think his own teams don’t know exactly what he’s going to do that particular night.”
But what does seem to be a known, is that Ron Artest wants to win an NBA championship … enough to approach an opposing coach in a locker room shower to make a pitch for it.
Very interesting indeed.