Wednesday, July 8, 2009

artest v. wallace.

I'm not going to get into this with the Artest vs. Ariza argument that's been going on in every Lakers fan's mind for the last week or so since this deal went down. Suffice it to say that I loved Trevor. I thought he was a solid piece of the team, and I would have been perfectly content to bring him back for a good amount of money, and that I would have hoped Lamar Odom would have been all right with taking a little less, for the good of the team. But from what I've read, it's not Trev's fault, but rather his agent's and that's a damn shame. So, what's done is done, Trevor Ariza is no longer a Laker and Ron Artest is one.

And then, over the course of the weekend, we started to hear that Rasheed Wallace would become a Boston Celtic. This, to me, is a good move. It's a good place for Rasheed, it's a good fit with the Big Three, and Wallce will do the work there that makes him so unique, contributing to the team in ways that have been well-documented. But with all the love for Rasheed heading over to Team Green, I can't understand the ambivalence toward Artest in LaLa.

Let's look at things just a little bit: Ron's involvement in the Brawl at the Palace was absolutely a shame. It was black mark on basketball in general, and it did terrible things not only to his reputation, but to a Pacers team that honestly seemed like they were this close to greatness. But...has he really gone off the deep end since then? His relationship with the Pacers deteriorated and there were some sad things said. He played well for the Kings, transforming what had been a lackluster team effort into a focused intensity. He went to the Rockets and, again, everyone was worried: "Will he be able to co-exist? Will he flip out?" And, of course, he didn't. He was fine. He brought a great, semi-veteran maturity to the team, and, let's not forget, his presence got them out of the first round for the first time in the T-Mac era. (I know it wasn't solely due to him, but his contributions shouldn't be overlooked.) I'm not even thinking about denying that Ron Artest is a little bit odd. But I find it baffling that people think he's not a winner.

On the other hand, we have Rasheed Wallace. Don't take this the wrong way. I love Rasheed. I love his fire, I love the fact that he delivered a championship to a Pistons team that seemed like it was destined to be great but never the greatest. (I don't love the fact that they beat the Beatles Lakers team.) However, all I can think of when it comes to Rasheed is what Joey said. Roscoe is a monster. No doubt. But he's nothing compared to what he could have been. But, seemingly, everyone and their mother seems to think that the Wallace deal makes the Celtics the faves in the East, while the Artest deal might be bad for the Lakers.

Does the addition of Wallace (with Garnett being healthy) mean that the Celtics get past the Magic this time? I honestly don't know. The Magic are a lot thinner without Hedo, but the addition of Vince shouldn't be overlooked. What about the Cavs? I don't think the Shaq deal was a huge plus for them, but it can't be denied that Shaq is a monster upgrade over (other) Wallace and Pavlovic. I mean, no doubt. The East, suddenly, has a little bit of stackedness going on for it.

Meanwhile, on the left coast, Artest is a more polished version of Ariza. (Let's keep in mind already that I said I love Ariza! I would not have given him up. But business people have to make these tough decisions and I'm glad that I'm not in their shoes.) I mean, what can Trev do that RonRon can't? Artest is a lockdown defender and strokes the three to a dirty degree. His two-point shooting percentage might leave a little to be desired, but at least the dude can create his own shot, to a reliable degree.

I'm sad to lose Ariza. No ifs, ands or buts about it. But if we had to lose him, I'm OK with getting Artest in return. Meanwhile, I'm not sure that Wallace signing with the Celtics improves them (even with Garnett!) enough to get them over the hump of a sizable Big Two (Cavs and Magic are nothing to scoff at) opposition, both of whom went further than them last year.

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