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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Artest versus Ariza

"You're a player but only because you be playin' yaself."--Jeru the Damaja, "Ya Playin' Yaself"

A prime example of the media's never-ending quest to completely misunderstand how basketball games are won and lost is the sudden elevation of Trevor Ariza to "elite" status. I've lost track of how many different outlets have recently slapped that title on Ariza, who averaged 8.9 ppg and 4.3 rpg last season as the L.A. Lakers' starting small forward; Ariza would not have started for most of the championship teams of the past two decades and, by any objective reckoning--either using a skill set based evaluation or even the "advanced basketball statistics" that are so popular in some quarters--he is at best an average starting small forward. Ariza is a good finisher in the open court, he can make open three pointers and he is a good defender but he is below average at creating a shot (for himself or others), ballhandling, passing and free throw shooting. Ariza is a classic role player--a Bruce Bowen/Shane Battier/James Posey type of player--who started for the Lakers because the Lakers are woefully thin at the small forward spot, something that I have written about for years; most elite teams have a starting small forward who is a major offensive threat: the NBA's other Conference Finalists in 2009 started LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Hedo Turkoglu at small forward. The 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics started future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce at small forward; Trevor Ariza would have been the third small forward in their rotation behind Pierce and Posey.

Being a Laker should have been a dream come true for Ariza; he went to high school and college in L.A. and playing alongside Kobe Bryant meant that Ariza never had to create a shot for himself or anyone else: he simply waited for Bryant to draw a double team and then either drilled wide open three pointers or slashed to the hoop for dunks. Bryant not only created open three pointers for Ariza but Bryant also taught Ariza how to make those shots. You could not design a more perfect situation for Ariza--and now Ariza has thrown it all away because either he or his agent vastly overestimated his value. The Lakers quite understandably did not want to pay Ariza "elite" level money but they offered him fair market value to re-sign with them. Instead, Ariza decided to shop his wares on the open market and the Lakers took the opportunity to sign Ron Artest, a former All-Star and the 2004 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Artest is a legitimate starting-quality small forward at both ends of the court, a lockdown defender who is more physically powerful than Ariza while also being nearly as quick; Artest also can create shots for himself and others. Some foolish people used to say that good players do not want to play with Kobe Bryant--and that such players would certainly not take less money to do so--but Artest gladly accepted a pay cut to team up with Bryant. Artest has the talent of an "elite" player, though it must be said that he does not consistently play at an "elite" level; however, considering that Bryant won a championship with one "elite" player and a cast of role players--including starting small forward Ariza--it is intriguing to wonder about just how well Artest may play when he joins forces with Bryant.

Artest can do everything that Ariza does and then some; from a talent/skill set standpoint there is no comparison whatsoever. Ironically, Ariza ended up signing with the Rockets for even less money than the Lakers offered him; Ariza gained nothing financially but instead of being a starter on a championship contender he will now go back to being a journeyman player on a team that has no realistic shot to win the title.

There are only two possible drawbacks for the Lakers:

(1) Ariza proved that he could accept his limited role, while Artest has often tried to be his team's number one offensive option even when he had teammates who were better suited to do so. Clearly, Bryant should be the Lakers' number one offensive option and Pau Gasol should be the number two offensive option. Lamar Odom has flourished as the third option but the shot distribution dynamic will be interesting to watch in 2009-10; will Odom accept possibly dropping to the fourth option and will Artest be content as either the third or fourth option? This was not an issue with Ariza because he knew that he could not create shots, but Artest likes to have the ball in his hands even though his shot selection can be highly questionable at times. Ideally, the Lakers would like to see Artest only shoot three pointers when he is on balance and receiving a pass from a double-teamed Bryant, as opposed to Artest dribbling for 10 seconds and firing an off-balance trey. Artest will also have a mismatch advantage against many smaller forwards and Coach Phil Jackson will surely encourage Artest to take those players into the post and go to work; Bryant will be on board with that as well: Bryant always has encouraged Luke Walton to go into the post against smaller players, so he certainly will want Artest to do that as well.

(2) Artest has a well-documented history of serious anger management problems, on and off the court; his issues go well beyond anything that Dennis Rodman went through: a significant portion of what Rodman did was a harmless act that did not impact his on court performance (such as his varying hairstyles/bizarre clothing choices) but when Rodman lost focus during games all it took was for Jackson or Michael Jordan to give Rodman a certain look and Rodman got back down to business. In contrast, Artest has committed repeated acts of violence that resulted in league suspensions and/or the involvement of law enforcement personnel. There is a real--and frightening--possibility that Artest could just snap and go off. That said, Jackson and Bryant are probably the coach-player duo that is best equipped to keep Artest in line; Jackson has a unique way of establishing parameters without making his players feel hemmed in, while Bryant commands universal respect (which is not the same thing as being liked--it is much more important) among his peers and will constantly challenge Artest to match his work ethic and focus.

Thanks to Ariza's miscalculation, he "played himself" and the Lakers managed to make a major talent upgrade. It will be interesting to see how Houston utilizes Ariza, because objectively speaking he is not even the team's best small forward; Shane Battier should be the starter, though because of Battier's unselfishness and willingness to accept coming off of the bench Coach Rick Adelman may install Ariza as the nominal starter while still giving Battier at least as many minutes as Ariza gets. Unless the Rockets make a major deal or Tracy McGrady miraculously becomes fully healthy they will not have a player who commands a double team, so Battier and Ariza will not get as many open three point shots as they did last season when they played alongside Yao Ming and Bryant respectively.

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:01 AM

36 comments

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36 Comments:

At Saturday, July 04, 2009 7:47:00 AM, Anonymous warsaw said...

From an old SI article about Rodman:

"He was fined and suspended at different times. He missed games due to a lingering, and questionable, calf injury. He would not talk to new coach Ron Rothstein"

I also remember several acts of violence (on and off the court), some stupid airballs in key games when he was still in Detroit, the day he had a rifle in his truck feeling depressive...

That wasn't an act, Rodman was as "disturbed" as Artest is. And yet he was great for The Bulls.

The same can happen to Artest. Plus, he won't have to create his own shot as often as he did in Sacramento or Houston, because Kobe and Pau are great passers and will find him alone often.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 8:35:00 AM, Anonymous db said...

As usually a fine analysis. It's not even funny that there are people who really think Houston got the better end of the deal. Ariza is the typical example of an overrated roleplayer on a successful team. If it were not for the bad economic climate, i'm sure somebody would have seriously overpayed for his services.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 10:48:00 AM, Anonymous yogi said...

I wonder if Ariza "played himself" or maybe his agent did.

It didn't seem like Ariza wanted it to end like this.

In any case I'm sure he'll regret this for years and years.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 1:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

*Applause*... Bravo! Now can you please send a copy of your insightful comments about "Artest vs. Ariza" to the "writers" and so called basketball "experts" Bill Plaschke and TJ Simers over at the Los Angeles (High) Times? :)

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 3:48:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

Here in Los Angeles, everything gets over-hyped. Sasha Vujacic has his own nickname, and Trevor Ariza was recently described by the LA Times' Bill Plaschke as having a "limitless ceiling." Picking a guy's pocket and turning it into an athletic breakaway dunk every once in a while doesn't make you Scottie Pippen. We are talking about a guy who hasn't averaged in double figures a single time in his career yet. Once he's playing without Kobe and is forced to create plays for himself, people will see how overrated Ariza is.

Ariza's agent did a horrible job trying to play hardball. Saying you are insulted by the Lakers' offer and then pointing to a bunch of identical offers? Please.

Are Artest's issues really much more than what Rodman went through? What stands out the most is the 2004 brawl in Detroit. Rodman never did anything like that, of course. However, if David Stern had been as strict in the late 80s or early 90s as he has been over the last five years, Rodman may have ended up with some long suspensions. For instance, I wonder how much Rodman's shove of Scottie Pippen in the 1991 playoffs would get him now. Beyond the 2004 Detroit brawl, Artest's past incidents are very comparable to Rodman's (remember Rodman kicking a camera man, headbutting John Stockton, etc.). I'll give you this: some of Rodman's craziness seems like an act whereas Artest never seems like he is acting (of course, things aren't always what they seem). As you said, Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant better equipped than anyone to keep a hot-head in line.

My biggest concern about the Artest signing actually has to do with his aging. Artest certainly looked slower this last year than he has in the past. Kobe was just blowing by him at times. That was not happening in Artest's Indiana and Sacramento days. I'm hoping this won't be an issue since Artest will play at the SF rather than the SG position.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 4:09:00 PM, Blogger lakersfoolsgold said...

Three articles in one day... very satsifying. You are near the top of my must-reads of the basketball world and the best of the unaffiliated.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 4:41:00 PM, Anonymous Jack B said...

David,
I guess Ariza didn't know how bad Artest wanted to be a Laker. A year ago after Lakers lost to Boston, Kobe was taking a shower, Artest walked in and told Kobe that he wants to come to L.A so he can help him win a championship. He also went to the coach's Locker room and told Phil Jackson the same thing. Lakers'Front office knew that and still made Ariza priority. But thanx to David lee who overestimate his client's worth, Lakers quickly moved to Ron Artest. Not to mention his constant threats through the media also turned the Lakers off.
Ariza should definitely fire his agent.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 4:49:00 PM, Anonymous barry said...

i think it's fairer to say that artest wanted to be a laker more than he wanted to play with kobe. if winning were tantamount, artest would have managed to control his temper by now.

winning is nice, but let's face it, money matters. i suspect that there are plenty of players in the NBA whose attitude is like that of larry hughes, who clearly prefers making big money playing the game his way and winning is incidental. in ariza's case, he's already got a ring.

also, texas has no state income tax, while he'd be in the 10% bracket if he stayed in CA. five years at the MLE is more than an extra 2.5 mil over the life of the contract. ariza made the smart business move IMO.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 6:15:00 PM, Blogger Sonny said...

Finally. It's nice to know I can always come to this blog for quality writing and analysis, David.

Ariza's agent royally blew this one, though there's enough on the web about that part of the situation to need to get into it.

I'm interested in your thoughts on how this plays out on the court. Offensively, I've always felt like Artest would be a perfect fit for the triangle because of his talent/skill-set. He can shoot, post and pass well. I believe he's an underrated play-maker and passer and was able to display that part of his game during the series against the Lakers. I noticed his best reads and passes came from sets when he was posting up -- which he'll likely be encouraged to take advantage of in the triangle -- and while driving. His post-up ability alone adds a new dimension to the Lakers' offense that they simply didn't have with Ariza (or even Luke Walton for that matter, although to a lesser extent). I believe Artest's infamous shot selection will be stifled by the multiple opportunities in the post that the triangle offense creates (and Kobe). Also, I wonder if opposing teams will still choose to sag Artest's defender off onto Kobe as they did with Ariza...

Defensively, I think one of the key aspects in the addition of Artest that nobody seems to bring up is the upgrade in rebounding. In my opinion, rebounding is the biggest difference in the case of Artest over Ariza. Too many times in the playoffs, I saw Ariza bullied down low trying to box out, often leading to rebounds and scoring opportunities for the other team. If it weren't enough to have Odom (assuming he'll re-sign), Bynum, Gasol and Kobe getting rebounds...having Artest certainly solidifies an already above average rebounding group. I've often heard that defense and rebounding win championships... the Lakers have upgraded in those two things without any drop-offs other than the two drawbacks you mentioned in the post. One of the criticisms I came across was that the Lakers sometimes used Ariza on opposing point guards and that they wouldn't have that option with Artest. I just don't see any reason to think the drop off on Ariza to Artest in guarding point guards is something to worry about. They also fail to mention that Artest can capably guard opposing 4's while Ariza was always overmatched during those particular switches with an opposing 4 or 5.

I commented on one of your blogs recently where you mentioned how Kobe has been playing both the Jordan AND Pippen roles. With the addition of Artest, it'll be interesting to see if Artest can fully assume Pippen's role. Artest obviously takes on Pippen's defensive role, and though I speak well of Artest's passing ability...they are not on par with Pippen's and his ability to facilitate -- though a definite upgrade on Ariza.

On a bit of a sidenote...
I came across this excellent anecdote with Kobe and Artest from John Ireland:

http://cbs2.com/local/ron.artest.lakers.2.1069858.html


Sonny

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 6:16:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Warsaw:

Certainly the reported Rodman incident with the rifle in his truck was alarming, though I think the exact details of what happened are not known for sure. The only time that he lost control in terms of violence on the court is when he kicked the cameraman on the sidelines (I'm not justifying his "head butt" of referee Ted Bernhardt but I'm not sure that Rodman made contact on purpose). Most of Rodman's "sideshow" antics had little if anything to do with oncourt performance; during a stretch in the late 1980s through the 1990s he had the best individual winning percentage of any player in the NBA and he played on five championship teams with two different franchises. Rodman enjoyed far more success both individually (rebounding titles) and collectively (championships) than Artest ever has; if both were in their primes today I would take Rodman without hesitation, both in terms of basketball skills and in terms of reliability.

I agree with you that Artest will be much better off in L.A. offensively because he will not have to create his own shot--but it will be important for Artest to understand that and not overhandle the ball. If Artest plays correctly he should be able to average 15-18 ppg while shooting a career-high field goal percentage.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 6:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Yogi:

I agree that we don't know who is at fault--but if Ariza did not want things to end like this then he should have accepted the fair market value contract that the Lakers offered to him. It is not like they were asking him to take some kind of "home town discount."

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 6:29:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

It is funny that a backup shooting guard who did not make a single field goal in the NBA Finals is nicknamed "The Machine."

If Plaschke compared Ariza to Pippen that is absurd. I don't know what the obsession with Pippen is in L.A.--first Odom was compared to Pippen and now Ariza. People apparently do not want to accept that Jordan had a legit Top 50 player alongside of him for each of his six titles while Bryant won the 2009 championship with an All-NBA Third Team player as his second option.

In addition to the infamous "Malice in the Palace" instigated by Artest charging into the stands--and going after the wrong person--Artest has a long history of domestic violence incidents. He has serious anger management issues that go well beyond committing flagrant fouls, though he also of course has a long track record of doing that as well. Like Mike Tyson, Artest can seem "normal" one minute and then be violent the next minute. I'm not a doctor but it is my opinion that Artest's problems are more deep seated and more serious than Rodman's; I think that if anything Rodman will ultimately prove to be more damaging to himself than to anyone else.

Although Artest may have slowed a bit with age, I think that the main thing that has happened is he put on some weight to play inside but that size will serve him well when he guards strong "small" forwards like LeBron, Pierce and Melo.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 6:39:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Barry:

I don't understand the distinction you made between wanting to play with Kobe and wanting to be a Laker. Do you really think that Artest would take less money to join the Lakers if Kobe were not there and the team were not a legit championship contender?

Artest took less money than he could have gotten elsewhere in order to join the Lakers. Most of the time when people say that it is not about the money they are lying but, at least in this case, it really is true.

Ariza's move is dumb financially and it is dumb in terms of his legacy. Instead of potentially being the starting small forward for multiple championship teams he will finish his career as a journeyman making less money than he could have made in L.A.--and don't forget that in L.A. even journeyman players get endorsement deals when they are on championship teams. Do you think that he will be getting a lot of endorsement deals in Houston?

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 6:46:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

As I mentioned in the post, Artest can create shots both for himself and for teammates. His ability to post up adds another dimension to an already potent Laker offense. Artest needs to limit his three point shooting to attempts made when he is on balance.

Surprisingly, in spite of Artest's size and athletic ability he has never been a great rebounder but he certainly is better equipped than Ariza to block out bigger forwards like LeBron, Pierce and Melo; those guys tended to overpower Ariza.

I don't think that Artest is as good or as smart defensively as Pippen was but Artest is a better and more physical defender than Ariza, whose specialty is shooting the gaps for steals as opposed to locking down people one on one. Artest's passing skills should fit in very well in the Triangle Offense.

It will be interesting to see what pecking order emerges (in terms of shot attempts) between Odom and Artest.

 
At Saturday, July 04, 2009 8:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How different is Artest from Rasheed Wallace in terms of their reputations and the respect they get from actual NBA players and coaches? I'm not sure about Ron, but Rasheed seems to be well liked by his teammates.

Would you trade Bynum for a PG? In my opinion, if the 2008 Lakers had Artest or this year's Ariza, they would have beaten Boston. If Boston is indeed putting Rondo on the trading block, I would do it.

Z

 
At Sunday, July 05, 2009 12:33:00 AM, Anonymous Joel said...

I agree that Ariza has become somewhat overrated. He played his limited role very well and seemed to have a nice future ahead of him as a solid role player, but the fact is he's only played a few months of really good basketball in his 5-year career (partly due to a lack of opportunities). Even at his best he still lacked a midrange game, didn't handle the ball well, lacked the bulk or savvy to handle the bigger SFs, and made most of his jumpers when he was wide open thanks to the attention drawn by Kobe. I'm not sure how he could have expected more than the full MLE based on his body of work so far.

Ariza's agent used similar tactics to secure a lucrative extension for Andrew Bynum (who had also accomplished relatively little over the course of his career) last summer. I don't think he expected the Lakers to have such a dramatic Plan B this time around.

The Artest situation has me somewhat nervous. Never mind the possibility of a meltdown (although he hasn't had one in a while) - can he accept his role and play it successfully? As with Marbury, even if he wants to he won't find it easy transitioning from a ball-dominating #1 or #2 option to #3 or #4, especially in the triangle which relies on timely ball movement and making the proper reads. On the other hand, he has the skills to thrive in the offense if he applies himself. He also gives the Lakers a much better chance of containing the likes of LeBron, Pierce, Melo, Jefferson, Roy, and Carter should they meet in the playoffs.

 
At Sunday, July 05, 2009 1:05:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

I think that both Artest and Sheed are well-liked by their teammates. That is not really the issue at all; the issue is whether or not they will do things (ill-timed technical fouls/flagrant fouls, poor shot selection) that hinder their teams' chances of winning and/or will result in them being suspended. Sheed generally seems to get his technical fouls for running his mouth, while Artest has anger management issues on and off the court; if I were running a team--particularly a team like the Lakers that has strong leadership with Jackson and Bryant--I'd be more concerned about Artest getting in trouble off of the court than on the court, because I think that Artest will be on his best behavior (relatively speaking) with Jackson and Bryant around.

The Celtics publicly deny that they are trying to trade Rondo. Hypothetically speaking--and ignoring any possible salary cap restrictions/limitations--if I were running the Lakers I would consider trading Bynum for a top notch young point guard. Gasol has proven that he is durable and that he can play center and the Lakers won the title with Bynum strictly playing a complementary role. Fisher is aging and the Lakers have yet to groom a suitable replacement. I don't know if Rondo is the ideal pg for the Lakers, though; Jackson likes his pgs to either be big/multiversatile (Ron Harper, Brian Shaw) or smaller players who are great shooters (Armstrong, Paxson, Kerr). Fisher is a hybrid of those two types--a short but strong pg who can shoot. Rondo is a short pg who does not shoot well.

 
At Sunday, July 05, 2009 1:11:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

I agree that the biggest challenge for the Lakers with Artest--other than his obvious anger management issues--will be to convince him to accept the proper role and not try to do too much offensively.

 
At Sunday, July 05, 2009 8:00:00 PM, Blogger Sonny said...

I'd definitely have Pippen over Artest on defense. Pippen rarely ever gets his full due as one of the top 50 greatest players of all time. You're right about people readily dismissing him; often a result of the credit being heaped upon Michael Jordan. There really hasn't been another player with the defensive prowess and offensive facility that Pippen possessed since. The only players I can think of who could compare is Lebron James (post-Olympics)and Grant Hill (pre-injuries).

It will be interesting to see how the shot distribution works out between Odom and Artest. Having followed Odom his entire NBA career and taking into account the established friendship between him and Artest, I'd imagine Odom willingly conceding touches to Artest for the sake of the offense. Odom has always been his most consistent when he is afforded to play off of the other players on the floor instead of being asked to be aggressive. Artest's presence on the floor would more likely benefit Odom's overall effectiveness than it would diminish it.

In terms of shot attempts, it might actually make more sense to focus on how it will work out between Artest and Andrew Bynum. The Lakers made a concerted effort to feature Bynum in the offense during the regular season leading to some of his best play before being derailed by another knee injury. He seemed to have trouble adjusting in the playoffs to his reduced offensive role, but seemingly found his niche on the defensive end as the playoffs progressed. In the latter stages of the Finals, it was evident that he had committed to defense by playing with more purpose in his actions. He managed to stay relatively effective in his limited minutes and despite his knee not being fully healed. Considering he gets himself 100% healthy for the upcoming season, the Lakers will again have to work on integrating a fully healthy Bynum along with acclimating Artest. So the relationship that Artest and Bynum develops will prove key.

 
At Sunday, July 05, 2009 8:12:00 PM, Blogger Sonny said...

As for trading Bynum for a point guard, I really don't see the need. Bynum possibly reaching his full potential, for me, outweighs any positives that a top notch point guard could bring to the Lakers. There just aren't many 7-foot, athletic and strong centers to be had, especially ones with Bynum's skill set and who's offensive repertoire is more polished than that of Dwight Howard's...at least at this point in time. I certainly wouldn't trade him for Rajon Rondo who's lack of an outside shot -- as David mentioned -- would basically cripple the Triangle Offense and questionable professionalism (even while being on a regarded well led/policed team... Garnett/Pierce/Allen/Rivers) has been reported on (by his own GM). I'd more question Rondo's attitude and effects on team chemistry than I would Artest's.

If the Lakers can re-sign Shannon Brown (as I'm sure they're trying to do), I believe he can be groomed into that suitable replacement for Derek Fisher. I'd say that the grooming process has already begun with Brown having been given effective minutes not just at the end of the regular season, but in the playoffs as well. At 6'3" (more like 6'1" though), a wingspan of someone that's 6'9" and a measured 44.5" vertical (measured during his rookie pre-draft camp), Brown is an athletic freak. I can see him potentially being a better player than Fisher. Offensively, he has shown the ability to facilitate and to knock down shots (including pressure ones as can be seen in the Denver series) from every set in the Triangle. He has the ability to drive and is already a better finisher than both Fisher and Farmer. Defensively, he has all the tools you would want. He's fast, laterally quick and has long arms. In the Denver series, he more than held his own against Chauncey Billups and there was one particular instance where he found himself switched onto Carmelo Anthony and refused to get backed down leading to a contested fade-away by Melo. In a game versus Charlotte, Brown (then in a Bobcat uniform) was used several times as the main defender on Kobe. He definitely needs more polish, but with a full off-season under the tutelage of both Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest...you have to like his chances. He has the ability to fully insert himself into and be an impact on an already imposing perimeter defense featuring Kobe and Artest. This is a lot of talk devoted to a relative unknown, but it's my belief that Brown is already being groomed into Fisher's role and has shown the willingness to improve and better his skill set to flourish in that role.

Obviously not many people are sold on Shannon Brown...but I like to think this will help:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2zyWVieESg

 
At Sunday, July 05, 2009 10:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

pippen was top 30 probbaly all time all time great artest not as good as scottie but he give the lakers multiple all stars and a stacked team the lakers are the most talented team in league and know they have artest will be difficult to beat in the playoffs next year barring a injury the clets will be tough with sheed they have no bench letteing big baby and powe go.

san antonio jefferson could be guarded by artest ginobilli health has been a issue and duncan is getting older.

cleveland lebron obvisouly best player in the game will shaq make a big enough dent at 37 and ageing and will his defense be a bigger liability then offense.

will orlando be content loseing hedo was big jameer come back healthy is vince a good enough play maker to fill hedo role aand will howard a top 5 player and best center come back improved next season dont know.

but i favor the lakers rght now

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 12:58:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

I should clarify: Plaschke made the "limitless ceiling" comment, but he did not compare Ariza to Pippen in the same article. I was more ranting in general about the absurd opinions of Ariza many people in Lakerland (including Plaschke) hold. So many people (fans on the street and even some media types) have been comparing Ariza to Pippen that I've lost track.

About one of the comments you made, I am not convinced that Artest took less money to join the Lakers and pursue a championship. Once Houston declined to offer him a long term deal, there were only a handful of teams with enough cap space to offer Artest more than the mid level exception. None of them seemed particularly interested. My impression is that Artest and his agent probably looked around and figured that he would end up with the MLE and decided on joining the Lakers.

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 2:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

Pippen is extraordinarily underrated--except by the small number of people who actually understand the sport; they appreciate his impact. Grant Hill in his prime was perhaps a poor man's Pippen but Hill was never as good defensively as Pippen was. I'd take Pippen defensively over LeBron, too, though LeBron is a more dynamic scorer; unlike MJ (and LeBron), Pip was not overly concerned with how many points he scored. Some people assumed that when MJ retired Pip would try to win a scoring title but instead he elevated all the other facets of his game, helped Horace Grant and B.J. Armstrong earn All-Star appearances and led the Bulls to 55 wins, just two fewer than their total from the previous season with MJ.

Bynum first has to prove that he can be healthy and productive for an entire season before anyone can assess what his role on offense should/will be. Assuming that Bynum can stay healthy and that he is productive enough to earn significant playing time, I am sure that Coach Jackson will continue to ask him to focus primarily on rebounding and defense. Kobe and Gasol are clearly offensive options 1 and 2, with everyone else falling in line after them. Bynum's post game is not nearly as polished as Gasol's.

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 2:36:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

There is no question that Brown is a very athletic player but I am not convinced that he can be the starting point guard on a championship team. He is really more of a combo guard--and an undersized one at that (at least in terms of height). Brown was the 13th man on the Cleveland team that made it to the Finals in 2007 but he got a lot more run with the Lakers in 2009 because the Lakers were not nearly as deep as so many people kept insisting that they were. For a stretch during the playoffs, Brown was the Lakers' sixth man and I doubt that he would have been the sixth man on too many of the other 15 playoff teams.

Brown is a nice player to have as a reserve and I could certainly see him taking over Farmar's minutes once Brown gets fully acclimated with the Triangle but the Lakers still need to find a young point guard to eventually replace Fisher. They don't necessarily have to do that right now but they have to do it soon.

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 2:41:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

A lot of the true details of negotiations are never revealed to the public (or the media) but my understanding of the situation is that if Artest had purely been interested in money--at least in the short term--then he would have made more by accepting Houston's one year offer. Artest chose to take the Lakers' three year contract instead.

My main point with that comment is that I used to hear people say that good players don't want to play with Bryant because they don't get along with him or that Bryant is selfish, etc. Bryant has had a positive impact on every player on the Lakers' roster--from Pau Gasol to Andrew Bynum to Shannon Brown--and the reality is that a lot of players want to play with Bryant. As Jeff Van Gundy said during the playoffs, the only players who don't want to play with Bryant are players who don't want to work hard and don't care about winning.

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 9:36:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

I dont care about Artest vs Ariza.

Why would Jeru leave Premier and become irrelevant?

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 2:52:00 PM, Anonymous Jack B said...

David,
Have you also heard the talks that Ariza might go back on his Houston verbal agreement and sign with Cleveland?? Mark Stein also reported that Mike Brown and Danny Ferry are in LA on a secret mission. If Ariza does go back on his deal, how bad would that make him and his agent look? Doesn't it prove that the Lakers were right all along?
-------------------
on Shannon brown: I disagree with you on him. The Lakers don't need a true point guard. What they need is a PG who can defend other PGs and knock down the open shot. If Shannon can improve those aspects of his game, there's no question in my mind that he might split time with Farmar. But overall i think Farmar is better than him which is why i don't see him starting.
--------
on boozer: why didn't the Heat make a run at him? Wade is as good as Williams in the pick and roll and that's Boozer's bread and butter. They'd be a contender in the east if they had gotten Boozer.

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 4:06:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jack B:

The signings become official on Wednesday, so rather than speculate we can just wait until then to see what happens with Ariza.

I don't see Shannon Brown as a starting caliber player on a championship team. Farmar is probably more skilled, while Brown is more athletic--but Farmar has not been the same since his knee surgery. Neither player has proven to be good enough or reliable enough to replace Fisher as the starter, which is why Jackson stuck with Fisher despite the bleatings of no-nothing fans and media members--and Fisher rewarded Jackson's confidence by making those clutch threes in the Finals.

Boozer said that he is going to stay in Utah.

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 9:51:00 PM, Blogger Sonny said...

I agree with you about everything you said on Pippen. I didn't mean to make it sound like Lebron James defensively or Grant Hill were as good as Pippen, but rather that they were the only two since Pippen that have had similiar skill sets.

I also agree with you that Bynum has to prove that he can be healthy and productive for an entire season. It was obvious that Gasol -- after a full off-season with both Bynum and Gasol -- would still be the featured big in the Triangle Offense. What suprised me was how the team made a concerted effort to feature Bynum in the offense. During the stretch in the regular season where Bynum was playing his best, the team was very conscious about his inclusion in the offense. No doubt that Bynum's opportunities were a result of opposing teams prioritizing their focus on Bryant and Gasol, but the team being adamant about getting Bynum going offensively made clear their belief in his skills and ability to get it done. Bynum isn't going to take over Gasol's position in the pecking order. However, considering what was evident during the regular season -- and with Gasol committing to another national effort over the summer -- it wouldn't surprise me if the Lakers looked to expand Bynum's role in the offense again, even if just to ease the load on Gasol.

The Lakers definitely need to fill a void in the point guard position. The only problem I have in that regard is of using Bynum to accomplish that. The Triangle Offense has proven Championship success with less than top notch point guards (I guess it would depend on your definition of "top notch" as to whether or not the point guards of both the Bulls and Lakers -- Paxon/Kerr/Harper/Shaw/Fisher -- would be considered as such). The point being, that in this offense, you merely need a serviceable point guard who can fill the role and maximize his offensive opportunities (a la Ariza) rather than a point guard that's widely considered top notch. With the talent they have offensively, the Lakers can still be elite with an offensively one dimensional point guard. Defensively, he needs only to be able to funnel driving point guards into help and have length to contest shots and/or disrupt passing lanes. The key is having a big that can patrol and protect the paint in which you can funnel penetrating point guards into. Accordingly, I think Bynum is more important to the Lakers because his impact on the defensive end is greater than that of a top notch point guard. During the regular season when Bynum was out due to injury, the Lakers' defense was noticeably less effective, although they were still able to have success in terms of winning games. Phil Jackson has stated that Bynum's value is in defense and rebounding. Taking into account the situation the Lakers are in, I'd much rather consider using Adam Morrison's expiring contract coupled with the talent of Jordan Farmar and/or a future draft pick for even just a slight upgrade and some help on the luxury tax than I would use Bynum to get a greater talent. If Shannon Brown is re-signed, you'd have Fisher, the upgraded point guard and Brown -- which presumably further improves your chance at a Championship this year -- and use next year's MLE (or any other year after that) and the lure of being a Laker/playing with Kobe Bryant to sign a more proven point guard that can take over for Fisher.

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 10:00:00 PM, Blogger Sonny said...

Obviously, I'm intrigued by what Shannon Brown will do this upcoming year if he re-signs with the Lakers. You noted that he was the 13th man on the Cavs' 2007 Finals team -- which really isn't any different from any other of his runs with other teams before the Lakers in terms of production -- but I think an exception can be made in his specific case. I think this upcoming year can be a coming out party for Brown. There was an article I read a couple months ago that basically validated everything that I was seeing on the court regarding Shannon Brown. So if anyone is interested, I'll just include the link instead of getting more into it. If anything, the article is an interesting little bit of insight into the behind-the-scene workings of the Lakers.


http://www.ocregister.com/articles/brown-bryant-lakers-2370495-james-nba


Also here some interesting things I've been able to come across recently regarding Artest that seemed relevant...

-"Interesting note from Tom Ziller of Sactownroyalty — Artest’s biggest clashes came with players he didn’t think worked hard enough (Bibby). At least that will not be a big problem in LA."

-Subtle things like this by Phil Jackson have helped lead to his success as a coach, this was from a phone interview with Phil Jackson: "I talked to Ron yesterday on the telephone, and he was almost giggly with joy, he's so excited. I told him, 'This is a long haul,' and I told him, 'I've always admired your ability to focus, to be intense.' "

"He is our Rodman," Jackson agreed. "I don't know how it will turn out. But what a great thing, what a great chance.' "

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 10:51:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

A lot of guys stood out in high school or in various high school All-Star games but never panned out in the NBA (Kwame Brown, to name just one who is quite well known to Lakers' fans). Shannon Brown can certainly be a rotation player in the NBA but I am not convinced that he is a starting caliber player for a championship-contending team.

I think that Kobe's work ethic and overall professionalism will be a great example for Artest to follow. Artest clearly respects Kobe in a way that Artest does not/did not respect other players that he played with previously.

As soon as word of the Artest deal came out I knew that Phil Jackson must be coming back, because there is no way that the Lakers would bring in Artest if Jackson were retiring. Jackson is one of the few coaches who can effectively deal with someone like Artest (the recently deceased Chuck Daly was another one, but there are not too many others).

 
At Monday, July 06, 2009 11:02:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

If Bynum is healthy then his role on offense probably will be "expanded"--or at least increased back to the 13-14 ppg level that Bynum has averaged for small stretches.

The Chicago/L.A. point guards that you listed are not "top notch" from the standpoint of being All-Star level players--though Harper was an All-Star level player earlier in his career before he got hurt--but those pgs were certainly above average either as shooters or as defenders. At some point the Lakers will need to replace the clutch shooting and the defense that Fisher provides as the starting pg; right now, no one else on the roster has proven capable of adequately filling that role. It is possible that the Lakers are simply going to ride things out in the short term and then when Jackson retires they will rebuild the team in a more traditional, non-Triangle Offense mold, but if the Lakers plan to be contending for a title in the third year of Kobe and Artest's contracts then they will probably have to replace Fisher during that time span; I don't think that Fisher has three years left as a productive starter.

I don't know how much the Lakers could get for Morrison and Farmar but I doubt that they would get nearly as much as they would for Bynum. I am skeptical that Bynum is going to (1) stay healthy and/or (2) be as good as some of the more optimistic observers think. Therefore, if I were running the Lakers and could get a top notch, reasonably young pg for Bynum then I would certainly consider doing so. This is all hypothetical because I don't think that any such deal is out there at the moment, but I was just responding to Z's question.

 
At Tuesday, July 07, 2009 3:58:00 PM, Blogger Sonny said...

I'm definitely aware that there have been many high school standouts that haven't panned out in the NBA. I remember an interview with John Salley where he mentioned that he was averaging 30-40 ppg in high school and then got to the NBA and never got off the bench. Obviously Salley was able to have success, but I'd imagine the same sentiment about talented high school players having a hard time panning out would apply to the majority of players in the league.

It wasn't Shannon Brown's high school achievements that I was really focused on in that article, but rather the part where Bryant speaks of Brown’s emergence now by citing the wonders that can come with “taking the shackles off a player.” With the relative improvements he has made in just half a season with the Lakers, it's my belief that his play this upcoming season will be more indicative of his ability to contribute than what he's shown on previous teams. Clearly he has benefited from playing alongside better talent and in a system that favors his skill set, and although he would likely not do well in different setting, it's only relevant to concern him in the situation he is right now (he has verbally agreed to a 2-year contract with the Lakers while turning down a more "lucrative" deal with Indiana; another case against players not wanting to play with Kobe).

I think that is were our distinction about Brown seem to be off. My assertion is simply that I can see Brown inserting himself as a starter on *this* championship-contending Lakers team. If someone were to say that you could insert Brown as a starter on any championship-contender...then I would be as skeptical as you are. I think this upcoming season will be Fisher's last as a productive starter and with the question marks surrounding Farmar's ability to take over that lead guard role, there couldn't be a more opportune scenario for Brown to possibly step into that role within the next 2 or 3 years -- as long as the Lakers decide to keep the Triangle. By re-signing Brown, the Lakers get an extended look at him and it seems the coaching staff will give him ample opportunities, as he's just the non-true point, multi-versatile guard that can thrive in the Triangle. Basically, I feel Brown can pull off what Ariza was able to by being a starter on *this* Championship Laker team.

 
At Tuesday, July 07, 2009 4:09:00 PM, Blogger Sonny said...

I get the feeling that Phil Jackson is genuinely excited and grateful about the opportunity to coach this upcoming group of players assembled by Mitch Kupchak. Artest seems to be the kind of kink that can help the Lakers avoid any kind of complacency in terms of being able to repeat.

It's very cool of you to take the time out and respond to each individual comment. You're definitely running a top notch blog and I'm looking forward to following it for this upcoming NBA season.

I was wondering what your thoughts on this current "arms-race" going on right now. I can't remember the last time their have been such meaningful player movement in an off-season with the clear agenda of purely just winning the Championship in that same year (for the top teams anyway).

 
At Tuesday, July 07, 2009 5:06:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

You make an interesting case for Brown being qualified to be a starter for this particular championship caliber team, though it could be argued that you are really making a case for the fact that Kobe simply needs less help to win a title than most other superstars do.

I just don't think that Brown has the savvy at either end of the court that Fisher does or that the starting pgs for the various Bulls/Lakers championship teams under Jackson did. Perhaps I am wrong about Brown or perhaps he will grow into that role. Brown is smart to stay with the Lakers--he is playing for arguably the league's best coach and playing with arguably the league's best player.

 
At Tuesday, July 07, 2009 5:14:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

Jeff Van Gundy made an interesting comment about the "arms race": due to the economic situation (globally as well as in the NBA specifically), the NBA has become a league in which a handful of teams are truly trying to win while the rest of the teams are simply trying to cut costs. This is an exciting time to be a fan of any one of the handful of teams that are trying to win but it is a very frustrating time to be a fan of the majority of teams that are simply saving money.

I think that there has always been an "arms race" at the top of the league, depending on the salary cap rules at the time and which players were available to be signed/traded. Recall that in 1983 the Sixers acquired 1982 MVP Moses Malone to pair him with 1981 MVP Julius Erving; could you imagine a scenario in which LeBron and Kobe ended up on the same team this year after Kobe won the 2008 MVP and LeBron won the 2009 MVP? Talk about an arms race! Moses ended up winning the 1983 MVP while leading the Sixers to the title, while Erving made the All-NBA First Team and finished fifth in MVP voting. During that era, the Celtics acquired former Finals MVP Dennis Johnson, the Lakers added Bob McAdoo and Mychal Thompson and the Bucks brought in Bob Lanier. I'm not sure that the current "arms race" tops what happened in the 1980s.

 

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