We know he’s a good player, we know what he’s capable of doing on the court. It was his ability to stir trouble off the court that had Lakers fans worried when his signing was announced at the beginning of 2009/2010 season. After all it was Trevor Ariza who left the team to sign with the Rockets, he was a big part of the Lakers second unit in the championship run the previous season.
We loved Trevor Ariza, he was athletic, explosive, exciting, and he always kept a cool head. He’s that quiet kid from LA who was just happy to be a part of it and did what ever the team asked of him. From shutting down the best player in opposing teams to making big shots in the NBA playoffs, he did it all, in a non-egotistical way … that’s hard to find in LA, especially in the Lakers.
Needless to say, when it was announced that Trevor would sign with the Rockets, and Artest would sign with the Lakers. Ron Artest had big shoes to fill, strange thing to say with the type of credentials that Ron Artest has.
– 2003-04 NBA Defensive Player of the Year
– All-Defensive First Team Selection (2003-04, 2005-06)
– All Defensive Second Team Selection (2002-03)
– All NBA Third Team Selection (2003-04
– All Star Selection (2004)
For many seasons during that period, Ron Artest was considered the top perimeter defender in the league along with players like Kobe Bryant and Andrei Kirilenko. It wasn’t his ability that we were worried about, it was his attitude, his ego. The last thing we needed was for a player as unstable as Ron Artest to disrupt the delicate chemistry that the Kobe and Phil Jackson have worked so hard to restore at Staples Center.
Remember these scences? The infamous “Malice at the Palace”, the darkest day in NBA history where Ron Artest was involved in a brawl that erupted in the stadium with fans and players. The altercation led to a 73 game suspension, the rest of the season, and his reputation took a permanent hit. His life with the Pacers was over, and soon after he had unsuccessful campaigns with the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets.
It was time to move on. Ron and Lamar were once teammates on their AAU team, and if anybody could get a handle on Ron, it was the Zen master Phil Jackson. In his first press conference he told us all that if the Lakers did not return to this space (NBA Finals) and win another title it would be on his broad shoulders.
Fast forward to June 2010 … it did. Those same shoulders played tough defence throughout the 2010 Playoffs, with assignments including Kevin Durant of OKC, Ronnie Brewer of Utah, Grant Hill/Jason Richardson (PHX), and finally Paul Pierce from the Celtics. He made a game winning layup off a Kobe Bryant miss in a pivotal game against the Suns, and a HUGE 3pt shot against the Celtics with 61secs remaining in game 7 of the Finals. Not to mention, there were no egotistic explosions, no locker room arguments or off-court indiscretions.
Ron Artest played basketball. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was tough, and it was inspiring to watch.
“The history of me in the playoffs, which I need to get better at, is playing more consistently throughout the playoffs,” Artest said. “Today is one of those days where I trusted in myself and I didn’t settle for some shots. I kind of at the right time did exactly what Coach wanted me to do. I just got to thank Coach Jackson for having me and Kobe and the Lakers for giving me this opportunity, and I’m really, really just enjoying this, and I just can’t wait to go to the club.”
The growth of Ron Artest since that tragedy at Auburn Hills has been incredible. As a lifelong Laker fan, I’m glad you wanted to join the team, and I’m glad that you played with the type of conviction that you did. Let these finals be dubbed “Redemption”. After all, his road to basketball immortality will be paved in purple and gold.
By the way, how about his HILARIOUS post game press conference?
“Honestly, he won the game for us tonight,” said the one and only Flea, resident spokesman for the Laker Nation and the bassist for the band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, who watched Artest’s press conference from eight rows back with lead singer Anthony Kiedis. “I’m so happy for him. Hollywood, Schmollywood. He’s a dynamic, exciting dude and I love him.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself