Artest to L.A.? Seriously… and Other Stuff

Ron Artest's departure leaves the Houston Rockets... um... neutered.  Photo courtesy of PETA (seriously).

Ron Artest's departure leaves the Houston Rockets... um... neutered. Photo courtesy of PETA (seriously).

By Justin Cherot

I almost died twice on the way home from work tonight.

While driving, I was listening to Sportscenter nightly on the ol’ ESPN 1300.  There’s an exit on Rt. 175 that leads to Rt. 29 in Columbia.  When I heard that Ron Artest was leaving the Houston Rockets to join the Los Angeles Lakers, I almost drove completely off the road. Luckily, I grabbed the steering wheel in time and made it back onto the road with no damage to both my car and my person.

So, as I was getting ready to hop onto the 29 exit, they announced that the deal was for three years and $18 million. It’s a miracle I didn’t crash into the rail.

Wow, are you serious? Not only do the Lakers get Artest, who is only the best on-ball perimeter defender in basketball, but they also got him for dirt cheap. Mitch Kupchak is a sneaky bastard, isn’t he? First, he gets Pau Gasol for a box of Cracker Jacks, now this?

Just do it. Just give the Lakers another title. The league’s only chance is if Artest implodes mentally. The good news for the rest of the league is that Ron-Ron was extremely well-behaved this year and he’s due for some strange stuff to happen.

More stuff…

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I was going to rant on this yesterday, but fatherhood happened, so that never materialized.  Anyway, the Detroit Pistons officially struck first in the 2009 free agent derby by signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.  First off, let me preface my lukewarm feelings about these signings by saying I like both of these players all things being equal.  In a league filled with guys who can score, Gordon is definitely on the short list of “guys who I would give the ball to and get the f%$# out of the way during the 4th quarter”.  Villanueva is a human match-up problem (as opposed to an alien one) that gives opposing teams fits because of his versatility on both ends.

That being said, after going to something sick like six conference finals in seven years, how excited can you possibly be about this signing if you’re a Pistons’ fan?  I posted this on Slam Magazine‘s Facebook site today: “The Pistons just moved up one or two spots in the East.”  The real coup is next year, and yet Pistons’ brass went out and overpaid severely for these two guys… good young talents, yes, but they’re not going to put fannies in seats OR help win titles.

Another thing: aren’t they kind of redundant?  As much as I love Gordon, isn’t Rodney Stuckey essentially the same kind of guard?  As versatile as Villanueva is, isn’t Tayshaun Prince somewhat similar (more defense, less offense)?

I don’t know.  Like the players, not sure about the fit.

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Another move I’m not too crazy about: in what league is Trevor Ariza worth more than Artest?  The answer?  The NBA, of course.

In case you didn’t hear and we’re the first thing you read in the morning, Ariza is on the verge of signing with the Houston Rockets. Not a fan of this move for two reasons:

1) The Rockets paid a little under $7 million a year to a guy that offensively is limited to being a spot-up shooter, and he hit around 33% of his threes last year in an offense where opposing defenses were daring him to shoot, and

2) The Rockets essentially already have better, more driven version of him in Shane Battier.

If I were Rocket’s GM Daryl Morey, I would have given fellow free agents Linas Kleiza and Anthony Parker a longer look… especially since I think both of them are better players.

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The Mavericks potentially pulled off a sleeper signing today when they extended an offer sheet to Orlando Magic restricted free-agent center Marcin Gortat.  It’s not the kind of move that’s going to send ripples throughout the airwaves, but I think about it like this: Gortat is a starter for almost any NBA team.  He’s tough, runs the pick and roll well and will definitely help Dallas in the rebounding department.  And, if you’re not buying any of that… he’s better than Erick Dampier.

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Yeah, none of this is official until at least July 8th, but we can pretty much etch all of this stuff in stone.  What else was I going to write about, Wimbledon?

Actually… you know what?  Check back tomorrow…

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