The Story of How Ron Artest Supplanted Kobe As the “Most Aggressive Laker”
A lasting image of the 2009 NBA playoffs certainly was seeing my beloved Los Angeles Lakers holding the Larry O’Brien trophy aloft as they celebrated in the House that Shaq Built. So to was the image of seeing the Celtics and Bulls battle epicly, Dwight Howard neutralizing the best efforts of the King, and the Philadelphia 76ers showing up long enough to get their playoff share.
But for me, the most enduring image is the post-game comments made by Ron Artest, after a loss to the Lakers in Game 2 of the series against the Rockets. Kobe hit Artest with a pretty vicious elbow and Artest was ejected soon after for comments made in Bryant’s face. Enough of a set-up… roll the clip.
Beautiful. Nothing says rationale post game talk with the press like ranting into a story about a kid at a pickup game getting murdered by a table. By the way, totally true.
But what brought us to the very unlikely story of Crazy Pills joining up with Kobe to form the, “Overly Agressive Duo”? A few things, actually.
The story really starts with Kobe himself. Minutes after winning the title, he was already looking into cameras and imploring the Lakers to make Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom Lakers once again. This, of course, is music to an agent’s ears, because now you have the extra leverage of reminding the Lakers that they need to keep their star happy.
The story then continues with Ariza, who after having some key moments and great play in this year’s playoffs, felt like he was worthy of not just role player money, but second and third fiddle money. Now all of the sudden, the mid-level exception wasn’t going to cut it. (Sidenote: If rumors are to be believed, Odom is seeking around $10 million to return to L.A. No thanks, buddy).
While all of this was happening, Houston was quitely deciding that the Ron Artest era was over. With no Yao, and no McGrady to start the 2009-2010 season, Houston is officially in a rebuilding mode and can be enough under the cap to possibly get Chris Bosh or another marquee free agent next season. Artest, having no future in Houston, gets a call from Los Angeles as soon as it becomes clear that Ariza is going to be too much for the champs.
In a matter of hours, the Lakers agreed with Artest to a deal that will pay him roughly half what the Rockets are about to sign Ariza to when he inks his deal for the full midlevel exception.
So where does this leave the Lakers? They have more leverage against Odom now, as not only did they replace Ariza, but they upgraded quite a bit. The Lakers can use that money to help Lamar stay a Laker or they can use that money to maybe bring in a deadeye three point shooter like Mike Bibby into the fold. The Lakers could also entertain the idea of Shawn Marion or snatching David Lee from the Knicks.
But nothing changes the fact that the most infamous show in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers, just became a little more complicated, a little more primetime, and a lot more intriguing to watch. If Rodman could be a Spur (well, and a Laker too) then Ron “Crazy Pills” Artest is certainly worth a chance in Laker purple and gold.