Ron Artest, who helped the Los Angeles Lakers claim yet another Larry O’Brien Trophy last summer, is apparently unhappy with is role on the defending champions this season. Now, as Marc Stein of ESPN reports, it seems that Artest would not mind being shipped off in a deal to shake up the Lakers’ roster.
It comes as no surprise that Artest is unhappy in his role with the Lakers this season. He has declines almost straight across the board this season as well as a decline in minutes played. Stein points out that Artest played only 5.5 seconds, yes, seconds, in the fourth quarter and overtime combined in the Lakers’ recent victory over the Houston Rockets. The Lakers employed a three guard lineup during much of that time.
There has been rumbling recently by Lakers’ General Manager Mich Kupchak that L.A. needs to make a trade to shake up the team chemistry and get spur some life back into the team. Everyone in Lakerland has heard the rumblings and Artest sees and opportunity.
Artest’s main issues with the Lakers, Stein states (he calls them “beefs” and we are in full support of that term), are:
1. He’s weary of being scapegoated for the team’s struggles and feels that he’s destined to always absorb the bulk of the blame no matter what happens because [Phil] Jackson and [Kobe] Bryant are so dependent on the more glamorous contributions of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and will never publicly go after regal Laker lifer Derek Fisher.
2. As we heard at various points during his stops in Indiana, Sacramento and Houston, Artest is eventually going to squawk if he’s being marginalized in the offense, which inevitably disengages him from his defensive responsibilities. (Relegated “to the corner shot” is the way Daniel Artest described it — except that he said “regulated” and surely meant “relegated.”)
Moving Artest would be hard, however. He currently has $22 million over three years left on his contract. It would be risky for any team to take on that much salary with the CBA looming. Artest is also 31 years old which would put him at 34 by the time his contract is over and with the decline in production that he has seen this season it would make any team hesitate to take a chance on him.
One thing is certain, cohabitation between Artest and the Lakers no longer seems possible. Are there teams out there who will look at the realistic possibility of bringing Artest into their program? Absolutely. However, that does not mean that anything will actually transpire. A small forward with a reputation for defense and who has won it all will always be a coveted commodity.
Artest is not the only problem that the Lakers face. Point guard play on the team is atrocious. Fisher, of the players who sees the most court time, turns the ball over second most, in terms of percentage, behind Odom. He turns the ball over almost as much as he is involved in an offensive play. Also, Fisher knows how to spell every opposing point guards’ last name as is always looking at their back as they blow by him. As for Steve Blake, well, let us just say that has not panned out so far or at all.
The Lakers have issues. Anyone who has watched them recently knows that. If is that reason that Kupchek has been so public about his trade talk even if it is just a feign. For now, though, Artest will likely have to sit on the bench, in the shadows of the personalities around him, on a team with glaring holes.