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Too early to decide Artest vs. Ariza

Mar 24, 2010, 2:14 PM EDT

NBA_artest.jpgRon Artest owned up to it before the season — “If the Lakers don’t win a title, blame me.”

Bill Plaschke decided mid-March was waiting long enough to start that blame game in a Los Angeles Times column today.

In a move engineered by the Buss family last summer, Artest was signed here from the Houston Rockets to replace (Trevor) Ariza, who then signed with Houston, after balking at the Lakers’ contract offer. It is a move that some Lakers folks would now take back. It was a move that many of us thought should never have happened in the first place.

Ariza didn’t have Artest’s star power, but he was a better offensive complement to Kobe Bryant, a more versatile team defender, and a guy who had survived the championship battle to win a ring. He was a known quantity who would have been an invaluable soul in the difficult quest to win a second consecutive title. Artest was a Lakers unknown who is still, well, a Lakers unknown.

These Lakers are not last year’s Lakers. The beautiful flowing offense shows itself only in flashes, with the team relying more on pick-and-roll plays and just their pure talent.

But this is a better defensive Lakers team than last year. Ron Artest has risen to the occasion and caused problems for opposing wings, a healthy Andrew Bynum (well, not right now but mostly) has been a force in the paint and for much of the season the Lakers were on top of the league. Things may not be as consistent as fans or the coaching staff would like, but these Lakers can be a very intimidating defense.

So the Lakers are not as good on offense but better on defense with Artest vs. Ariza? How is that different than what anybody expected before the regular season? Plaschke got Artest to say Ariza is a better player than him, but anybody who has interviewed Artest more than once knew that Artest would give you that answer. Ron-Ron is in the stage of his career where he judges himself by rings, and Ariza has one. Artest admits he is still proving himself — to fans, to teammates and to himself.

For the Lakers the regular season is not where this campaign will be judged. Or this debate, for that matter.

When the games slow down and tighten up, we know Ariza could step up and make plays — key threes and big steals.

Can Ron Artest? The Magic 8 Ball says, “please ask again later.” Try mid-June. Because before then, we don’t know if Artest is a better fit than Ariza.

  1. Ned Ludd - Mar 24, 2010 at 5:46 PM

    This would be the same Trevor Ariza the every Houston fan wants run out of town on a rail? Has Plaschke actually watched him play this year? Yes, the guy had a good year last year, but it was an anomaly. Ariza is at best a slightly better than average player.

  2. DCLAKERFAN - Mar 25, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    ARIZA MAY BE ONLY SLIGHTLY BETTER OFFEENSLEY ONLY BECAUSE HE IS YOUNGER AND ARTEST HAS HIS FOOT PROBLEMS BUT ARIZA HAS YET TO PROVE HIMSELF AS A MAJOR PLAYER IN THE NBA WHERE AS ARTEST HAS ESTABLISHED HIMSELF AS A DEFENSIVE FORCE, A 3PT SHOOTER AND STEADY REBOUNDER. PLUS HE KNOWS HOW TO GET INTO THE HEAD OF HIS OPPONENT AND THROW HIS GAME OFF MIND-WISE ARIZA HASN’T LEARNED HALF OF WHAT RON FORGOT.HAD HE STAYED WITH LA DOWN THE ROAD HE COULD POSSIBLY BE THAT TYPE OF PLAYER BUT HE DECIDED TO MAKE A MOVE. HIS LOSS! I WISH HIM THE BEST HOPE HE ENJOYS HIS 1 RING.

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