So let me get this bit of information out there quickly. I'm not an Xs and Os basketball guy, yes, I know them, but in my mind, "plays" in basketball work about 4 times a game, and usually they are just where did the screen get set or who gets the ball on the inbound and then who cuts where. My point is, this is going to be a little more visceral than tactical. Let's start with the basics, who is Ron Artest?
Born on November 13, 1979 in Queens, New York
Attended La Salle Academy, more known as the school the Archdiocese of New York and Chicago went to than for basketball
He then went on to attend St. Johns where he took the team to the Elite 8, eventually losing to Ohio State in an incredible 77-74 game.
Crazy Pills - Thank you Hardwood Paroxysm
Tru Warier - Apparently his barber can't spell
Ron Ron - My personal favorite
Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 1999 draft, #15 overall. That draft was one of the better ones in the last 20 years. Though it was almost 10 years ago, it has produced star players of today in Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Richard Hamilton, Shawn Marion, Corey Maggette, and Artest. It also has some other big names in Steve Francis, Lamar Odom, Wally djfdzzzerbiak, Andre Miller, Jason Terry, James Posey and Andrei Kirilenko. Oh, and don't forget that the Spurs picked up Manu Ginobli with the second to last pick that year.
His days with the Bulls first sprouted my love for Ron Artest. He always seemed to be in people's faces and just did everything pretty well. When you can score and pride yourself on your defense, it's almost a lock that I will like you as an NBA player. The Bulls were terrible, but with Elton Brand and Ron Artest I thought they had a shot to really turn the team back around. Sadly, after lucking into Jordan and Pippen, the Bulls personnel moves have left something to be desired. He and his 13 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 APG, 2 SPG and .5 BPG were traded to Indiana along with Brad Miller, Ron Mercer and Kevin Ollie for effectively Jalen Rose and nobodies. That's right, they traded 3 guys still in the league for Jalen Rose.
In Indiana he was now on a team with Jermaine O'Neal, Reggie Miller, and Al Harrington. Enough has been written about the Malice in the Palace, so I'm just going to get my quick two cents in and leave it alone. Throwing a cup of beer at someone means you get punched. That's just the way it is. It also was 90% Ben Wallace's fault, there, I said it. Prior to the "brawl" he was around 17PPG, 5RPG, 3APG, 2+SPG, and .7BPG and was the second best player on the team. It's really a shame that the fight happened, as he was producing some incredible number in the first 7 games that year, 24PPG, 6.5RPG, 2SPG and 1BPG. After the fight it was obvious that something needed to change in Indiana, and though they were expected to contend for the title the year of the fight, they couldn't let the team stand as it was. Well, they couldn't after Artest demanded a trade anyway. Artest was traded to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic.
When Artest arrived in Sacramento, the team hit the ground running. He was a perfect fit for Rick Adelman's offense and more importantly, his team's previous lack of defense. The Kings were 18-24 when he arrived and finished the season 26-14 to clinch the 8th playoff spot. They played the Spur tough, but ultimately they were too much. The next season Adelman was fired and the Kings went through a tough season. Ron upped his averages across the board, but it wasn't enough, the Kings injuries left them out of firepower. Artest had a good year last year as well, again upping his averages. He has pretty consistently improved ever year he has been in the league, and with each team he's been with, his averages in his last year were better than his averages in his first year with them.
On August 14th, we should find out that this trade has gone through, after that, a new chapter in Artest's career will be born.
Why is he a fit?
Okay, tell me that this guy isn't a fit?
Let's pretend for a second that you didn't know about Artest's past. Let's pretend all you were doing is building an NBA team. You have 2 legitimate superstars and 2 good to very good players behind them. Would you want a guy that is 28 and has these numbers?
PPG - 16, 18 over his last 3
RPG - 5.1, 6 over his last 3
STL - 2.1, 2.2 over his last 3
AST - 3.2, 4.2 in his one season with Adelman
BPG - .7
FG% - .425, .431 over the last 3 including .453 from behind the arc last year and .440 the year before that
The answer to the above question is "Of course you would".
What position can he play? Is all of them good enough for you? Okay, so he can't play C, but you can legitimately see him playing every other spot on the court. And save for PG, he has. He is a natural SG/SF with incredible post up skills and strength that allow him to play PF as well. Now, lets go back a while, what were the Rockets biggest needs?
1. A SG/SF that can spell Tmac and provide offense at the SF position. Someone that is versatile enough to come off the bench or start.
2. A top 10-12 PG
3. A backup center to Yao that can learn from him at a young age.
So, if you are scoring at home, Daryl Morey just fixed the Rockets NUMBER ONE PROBLEM! That's right, he fixed the biggest gaping hole we had. And you know what? It also partially fixed number 2, because Rafer's deficiencies are masked greatly with a third scorer. It means he won't have to, nor will he have the chance to try to, take over a game on the offensive end. Morey actually went above and beyond the number one need because he got a guy that can not only spell TMac, he can actually take over Shane's starting spot. Now I think everyone that is reading this knows how much I truly like Shane Battier. He brings everything he has to the game every single time. Unfortunately high potency offense is not something he has.
Where does he play? How does he fit on the court?
So if he can play SG/SF/PF consistently well, what will he play? The beauty of it is, anything Adelman feels in a given night can be the answer. John Hollinger says that the Rockets want to play him at PF, I say that's not going to happen that often. Definetly not often enough to point it out as your biggest scoop. (I really like Hollinger, so no knocks, he had what he had to write). Here's the most logical starting lineup:
SF Crazy Pills
C The Great Wall
Seriously, who has a better starting 5 than that?
Let's see (And I'm not sure if I'm being a homer or not here):
AR - Advantage Rockets
AO - Advantage Other Team
E - Even
AR+ or AO+ means big advantage
Pacific - Absolute Nos - Warriors, Clippers, Kings
Lakers - PG Farmar (AR), SG Kobe (AO), SF Odom (AR), PF Gasol (AO), C Bynum (AR+)
This may prove to be the closest out there. Rockets have 3 advantage points in my eyes and two for the Lakers. Farmar just isn't that good, but he's young and definitely has potential. Kobe is Kobe, without Artest on the Rockets, I call that big advantage Lakers, but I'm giving TMac the benefit of the doubt here. Artest is better than Odom, plain and simple. As for Gasol, I'm not a huge fan, and his numbers, while better than Scola across the board, weren't that much better once Scola started. Over the last month, Scola was a 14 and 9 guy and Gasol was a 19 and 7 guy. It's a difference to be sure, but certainly not a huge one. And let me remind you that this was Scola's first season in the US. Yao is much better than Bynum pre injury and he's infinitely better post. Overall I'd call the teams pretty even right now, with a slight edge to the Lakers for going to the finals last year and now getting Bynum back. This starting lineup vs the Rockets is a toss-up to me, not clearly better, not clearly worse.
Suns - PG Nash(AO+++), SG Bell(AR+), SF Grant Hill (AR+), PF Stoudemire (AO+), C Shaq (AR+)
On the surface, this looks like it should be closer than I really think it is. Nash is now 34 and due for a back break down, but he's infinitely better than Alston. Bell and the 35 year old Hill aren't even close to Tracy and Artest, they just can't do anything with that. Bell's defensive skills aren't enough to handle both players and one will surely go off on the offensive end. Stoudemire is a big advantage, especially on the offensive end. He's the one place no other team in the league other than Boston can truly counter. Luckily, he goes into offensive and defensive lapses a lot, though I do think this is the year that stops. I still believe the Shaq trade was terrible, he's become a charicature of himself off the court and a shell of his former self on the court. It happens to every great center (except Abdul Jabbar somehow) eventually. At this point in time, hell for the last three years, Yao has been head and shoulders better in every way except offensive fouling and not getting called for it. In the end, the analysis says that the Suns would be competitive with the Rockets, but the Rockets should win any series they are involved with Phoenix in.
Northwest - Absolute Nos - Nuggets, Timberwolves, OKCDurants
Trailblazers - PG Jerryd Bayless (AR), SG Brandon Roy (AR getting slimmer though), SF Outlaw/Webster (AR), PF Aldridge (E to AO, not sure here (Go Horns!)), C Oden (AR+)
Here is a team that I legitametly like. They are extremely young at every postition and have a new PG and a new C on a team that threatened to make the playoffs for 2/3rds of the year. They will go through their growing pains, but I fully expect them to take over for the Nuggets as the last or second to last team in the playoffs this year. Bayless will take some seasoning and Oden is coming off microfracture surgery, but by mid season I think this team will be over .500 and really getting on a decent roll. Overall I won't breakdown each spot, the Rockets are just the better team, but in two years, if they can keep the team together, the Trailblazers and the Hornets (same team issue for them contract wise) will be the best two teams in basketball. This year though, the Rockets have the advantage.
Jazz - PG Williams (AO+), SG Brewer (AR+), SF Kirilenko (AR+), PF Boozer (AO), C Okur (AR+)
I have chronicled many times how much I hate the Jazz. They have beaten the Rockets the last two years in the playoffs, once without Yao, and both without Artest. Mark it down, there is not a chance in the world that this team is better than a healthy Rockets team, none. There is no one that convince me that if Yao had played that the Jazz would have won the series last year, add in Artest and it's over Jazz fans! I'm talking to you MyUtahJazz and SLCDunk! Luckily for you, the Jazz will be a 4th or 5th seed again, so they won't have to face the Rockets.
Absolute Nos -Philly without Iguodala and Miller, Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Chicago, Charlotte, Milwaukee, New York, Miami
Just nos but could be competitive - Orlando, Cleveland, Washington, Toronto, Philly with Miller and Iguodala
Celtics - Yep, they are good, but they are in the East so I'm not sure I care that much.
Pistons - Old, beatdown, not going to do it this year either. They will blow this team up either this year or next
The Rockets own division - The Southwest Absolute No - Grizzlies
Spurs - PG Parker (AO), SG Ginobli (AR because Ginobli really comes off the bench), SF Bowen (AR+), PF Duncan (AO+), C Oberto (AR+)
This is a tough one to break down, as I truly believe the Spurs may be close to done. Not getting Corey Magette may have made them finally too old. They have two clear advantages at PG and at PF, but Duncan is not who he used to be. He can still turn it on, but much like McGrady can dissapear at times. No one notices it, because Duncan gets props even when playing poorly. Ginobli isn't better than Tracy, but the advantage is not huge in the Rockets favor, but it is an advantage nonetheless. Bowen isn't better than Artest by a long shot, he's not even better than Battier. Oberto is not in Yao's league. Overall, the power has swung away from the Spurs in the Southwest, the Rockets and Hornets both will be better this season. They've had a great run, and could just be one medium trade from being back in it, but for now, they are a solid 3, mabye 4 in the Southwest.
Mavericks - PG Kidd (AO), SG Terry (AR+), SF Howard (E), PF Nowitzki (AO+), C Dampier (AR+++++++++)
After trading Devin Harris, this starting 5 got old in a hurry. Kidd is on his last leg, though his last leg is better than a lot of players' first leg. Terry just doesn't have what he used to, and coming off the bench again may be what is best for him. Howard is very good, he's basically Artest's offensive game without all of his defense. I called it even, but the more I think about it, the more that's probably an advantage for the Rockets. Obviously Dirktastic is a great player he's a standout in this lineup versus the Rockets, and I think he'll have another strong year. Dampier sucks, he's not the best and in the West you could make a case for him being in the bottom 5 starting centers. Yao is kind of good on the other hand. They have another year to gel with Kidd, but I can't see them rising above the number 3 spot in the Southwest. The Rockets and Hornets have clearly better teams right now.Hornets - PG Paul (AO+++), SG Peterson (AR++) SF Stojakovic (AR), PF West (AO), C Chandler (AR)
That brings me to my pick to make the finals last year, and the team I think stands in the way of the Rockets to make it there more than any other. Paul is the best PG in the league. I honestly think he's the best since Nash, and before Nash since Magic. I think he's better than Nash now, and will be much better when it is all said and done. Rafer can talk shit, but he can't back it up in this matchup. Peterson is a semi-weak link for them, and at a postion they can't afford to have a weak link. Stojakovic is going to get abused if they play him against Tracy or against Ron Ron. Artest can also completely shut him down on defense and let Tracy get the points in this matchup. West is clearly better than Scola, and that's no knock on Luis. West was arguably the best true PF in the West last year. Chandler is good, but he won't be alley-ooping nearly as much when Yao plays under the basket against him. This lineup vs the Rockets is a toss-up to me, not clearly better, not clearly worse.
Okay, I'm done, that took me forever to type. On to a few links:
Sacbee - Kings Blog
This blog gave us soundbites from Artest before Yao spoke and after. Either way, he's happy to come to the Rockets as long as he is wanted. Ron Ron, you are wanted man.
After Artest talked on the phone to Yao -In other words, no big deal. He wants to be a Rocket and knows whos team this is.
Yao right after the trade - My take on this is that Yao is a million miles away and was just wondering outloud about chemistry. He didn't say he didn't like Artest or that he didn't want him. Yao is a smart man, he just wants to make sure the team will work. I believe he thinks chemistry with anyone is possible, just wants it to be known that it is needed here. After reading it all a second time, Yao actually seems to be excited. Let's not forget that English is his second langauge.
And for the final piece of why Artest; From Yao:
“For some reason, I like (Artest),” Yao said. “Because in the games we play
against him, I hate him.
Liking a player because you hate them on the court is a supreme compliment
Richard Justice, man, I want to like you, you're a Horn afterall, but come on, don't make a big bullshit statement saying you hate the trade and then the next day say it makes complete sense. Seriously, where is your credibility? If you are going to do that, at least say you thought about it and were wrong. It's okay to be wrong occasionally if you are willing to admit it.