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NBA Playoffs, Lakers v. Suns Game 2: Ron Artest still fighting the ghost of Trevor Ariza

May 20, 2010, 1:18 PM EST

artest.pngAs long as Ron Artest remains a Laker, he will be compared to Trevor Ariza. The circumstances that allowed for the addition of Artest and Ariza’s departure just fit together too conveniently, and considering the similar spaces and roles they’ve occupied within the Laker offense.

Artest apparently isn’t too keen on the comparison. From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:

About a week ago Ron Artest lingered after practice with a small group of reporters, sitting down
on an exercise machine and talking about his progress this postseason,
when somebody mentioned it took Trevor Ariza about a full season to fully grasp the Lakers’ system, too. “You’re going to compare me to him?” Artest asked, pained by the name.

Ariza’s 2009 triumphs have become something of a tall tale; Trevor was a piece of a championship formula and did a lot of good things for the Lakers that season, but from the way fans and media members have pined for him at times this season is a bit absurd. Ariza wasn’t a larger than life superstar, he was a nice complementary player that hit some shots and played great perimeter defense.

Turns out those commodities are replaceable if you know where to look, and if your team has the luxury of luring Ron Artest for the mid-level exception. Still, even after three series’ of solid play, Ron is still trying to prove himself. He’s still trying to escape from Trevor Ariza’s strangely large shadow.

It won’t be enough for Artest to simply be a part of a title team. Ariza is so well-respected for his L.A. tenure because when the Lakers needed him, he produced. When he found the ball in his hands in the final minutes of big games, he didn’t hesitate. He didn’t just settle for playing good defense when the Lakers needed a crucial stop, he jumped the inbound pass and became the subject of playoff legends.

Reputations are a funny thing. Artest should have forged his by playing excellent defense on Kevin Durant in the first round, or by being part of the Laker team that so handily dismissed the Jazz in the second. Yet, despite of how valuable Artest has been in the postseason so far, he’ll have to prove himself as invaluable if he really wants to escape the Ariza comparisons.

A lot of that is dependent on circumstances, as Ariza was only allowed to succeed because Andrew Bynum was sidelined, Lamar Odom was invisible at times, and Pau Gasol/Kobe Bryant opened up shots for him. Artest is finally finding himself in similarly beneficial circumstances against the Suns, and he’s capitalizing.

When Bryant hits Artest in the corner out of a double team, Ron has to hit that shot or make a play. When Jason Richardson foolishly looks to break down Artest off the dribble, Ron has to step up and get a stop. Not necessarily because that’s the difference between a win or a loss in Game 2 (although it could have been, as Artest scored 18 and prevented plenty more by the Suns in a 12-point win), but because those plays will be essential in the future.

The Lakers have made it abundantly clear that although they’re respecting their opponents, even these games are not an end unto themselves. It’s important to perform against Phoenix, but the Western Conference Finals are a means to achieve the bigger goal. That’s where Artest will go from luxury to necessity. He may never reach Ariza’s ridiculous 47.6% mark from three in last year’s playoffs, but the farther the Lakers go in the playoffs, the more integral Artest becomes.     

  1. DYi - May 20, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    Artest will get his “Ariza redemption” against the Celtics when he accomplishes his final task: stop Paul Pierce. Once that is done, I hope that quashes this subject.

  2. soma - May 20, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Lakers would not have survived the Thunders series without Artest guarding Durant. Ariza would have no chance againts Durant. Ariza is not a great one on one defender like Artest. Though he is quicker and fill up the passing lane better. In the final against Celtic, Ariza will not be able to handle Pierce but Artest will shut him down. Laker will have better match up againts Celtic because of Artest’s presence. He adds physical strength to this tall lineups especially Bynum can only give 15-20 quality mins. It’s too bad he cannot jump (due to overweight).

  3. DB - May 20, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Artest was there for one reason, guard Lebron in the finals. Just turns out they didn’t need to worry about that yet.

  4. Jeffrey - May 20, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    great read – also check porkchopfactory.com

  5. [a] proxy - May 20, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    When Lakers acquired Artest at the beginning of the season, I was very skeptical that he would fit into Phil’s triangle. During the course of the season, Artest changed my mind about him. I give Artest all the credit in the world for learning or continuing to learn the triangle and playing great defense. He has truly helped the Lakers to be where they are right now. And now, that he’s coming alive behind the 3-point line, ooh wee, Lakers have another weapon to use. LET’S GO LAKERS!!!

  6. dan - May 20, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    Ron Artest is an upgrade. Ron Artest is an upgrade. Ron Artest is an upgrade. Ron Artest is an upgrade.
    Not sure how many times it has to be said, but there, I threw in four more. Eventually, people will get it.

  7. Lakertime Fan - May 20, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Oh that’s right. Ariza. Shame on me for forgetting. Watching Artest help the Lakers get this far in the playoffs made me forget.

  8. Lion Woods - May 20, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Trevor Ariza made a name for himself last season without a doubt. The moment I heard that Ron Artest was going to sign on as a Laker I knew we would not take a drop in productivity or defensive strategy at the small forward position. Ron Artest is a perfect fit into Phil’s system and compliments Gasol, Kobe & Company like a glove. Ariza who? Lakers over the Celtics in 7.

  9. Vince - May 20, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    If Ariza was here instead of Artest, the Lakers would not make this far. Artest is super on defense and can score a lot of points when needed

  10. Anonymous - May 20, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    Ariza is not even on the same level as Artest. Artest is the one that earned defensive player of the year!!

  11. DCLAKERFAN - May 20, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    please excuse me for asking you this, but WHERE IN THE H$LL DO YOU GET THESE STUPID!!!! EXCUSES TO WRITE AN ARTILCE. ARIZA IS A GOOD(BUT YOUNG)PLAYER THAT OVER TIME WILL DEVELOPE INTO A RON ARTEST TYPE PLAYER BUT HE IS NO WHERE NEAR IT YET. CHECK GOOD HOUSEKEEPING THEY MAY NEED SOME STORIES ABOUT TABLECLOTHES YOU CAN WRITE ABOUT BECAUSE YOU AREN’T DOING A GOOD JOB ON SPORTS!!!!

  12. johnny - May 20, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    rob, stop smoking crack. you really gonna compare ron artest to trevor ariza?

  13. Da Real - May 20, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    The Lakers made the right move for one reason – the Boston Celtics. He is going to shut down Paul Pierce.
    Aside from that, it was a bad move.

  14. paul.aka.paul - May 20, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    Who exactly has been talking about Ariza all year? I live in the LA television market. I follow the team. This article’s writer, Rob Mahoney, appears to just be reaching for some unique angle to write about. Oooh, lets compare Bynam to Shaq. Someone must have said something to compare them since the season began in late October.

  15. nivek - May 20, 2010 at 7:06 PM

    Artest is a defensive machine thats what he does.
    when he scores it’s a bonus. Lakers sealed this years championship by picking him up. Ariza good but not a Artest.

  16. Drew - May 20, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    Actually, I think it’s debatable whether Artest is an upgrade over Ariza. Yeah, he’s a tougher on-the-ball defender and brings some much needed toughness to a finesse team, but his shooting is more erratic and Ariza was much more effective moving without the ball and cutting through the lane for baskets. He fit well into the system and also hit big timely shots.
    When it’s all said and done, if the Lakers win a ring this year, obviously Artest will have worked out for them, so who cares? The proof is in the pudding.

  17. Mark - May 20, 2010 at 7:53 PM

    First of all, I am a Laker fan and am a fan of Ariza. However, I get a little tired of people saying that Artest is an “Erratic” shooter and Ariza isn’t. That simply is not true..Check their stats.
    Ariza had an unbelievable run in the playoffs hitting 3 pointers, but that was what it was, a run. If you look at their season averages, Artest is the better 3 point shooter.
    Two years ago, Sasha was on a run shooting 3 pointers…funny how I don’t hear people saying that he is the best 3 point shooter around.
    Artest over Ariza. Period. (For now!)

  18. Blaze - May 20, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    Artest is overated and he has not shown his worth in these playoffs. His best defensive days are behind him and he will be a liability when they play the Celtics. The problem is the lakers are playing creampuffs and they have been for the last 2 rounds. The Jazz were never a match for the Lakers dating back almost 5 years ago and the Suns dont have the intensity and the committment to defense. Guess who has both?? The Celtics…if Artest wants repsect match their physicality without getting flusterred and making foolish errors. My bet is he will though…

  19. dn7 - May 20, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    there are three types of nba players I don’t like.

  20. blaze - May 20, 2010 at 9:07 PM

    Artest is overated and he has not shown his worth in these playoffs. His best defensive days are behind him and he will be a liability when they play the Celtics. The problem is the lakers are playing creampuffs and they have been for the last 2 rounds. The Jazz were never a match for the Lakers dating back almost 5 years ago and the Suns dont have the intensity and the committment to defense. Guess who has both?? The Celtics…if Artest wants repsect match their physicality without getting flusterred and making foolish errors. My bet is he will though…

  21. Omnius - May 21, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    Trevor Ariza was a good fit for the Lakers last year beating the Magic, this year Ron Artest is a much better fit for playing the Celtics. Trevor Ariza made some amazing defensive plays in last year’s playoffs but he just didn’t have the defensive muscle that is going to be needed to beat the Celtics, he proved that in 2008. Ron Artest just has to ignore the lame media hypes who are trying to get under his skin with their lame comparisons to Trevor Ariza. Lakers will win another championship next month and gain revenge on Gang Green!

  22. geo59 - May 21, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful (well…, maybe I do) but this is one of the dumbest articles I’ve read in a long time. No one who knows anything about the NBA would compare Ron Artest to Trevor Ariza. Artest is a proven commodity, well respected across the league, and a defensive player of the year award winner. His career ppg average is 16 and he averaged almost 25 ppg one year. He is a solid all-star level player offensively and a hall of fame level player defensively. Writing an article that even attempts to compare Trevor Ariza (a good young player) to Ron Artest is like comparing Kobe Bryant to Nate Robinson. Writing this article indicates that the author knows next to nothing about professional basketball. Just because Artest took Ariza’s spot doesn’t mean they can be compared. Who wrote this article, one of the LA cheerleaders? Ridiculous!

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