Lakers fans, you’ve convinced yourself that Ron Artest is going to be a great fit, that his game will mesh perfectly and he isn’t that crazy. Now that he’s on a championship-caliber team he’ll blend right in. No problem, right?
Then maybe you shouldn’t read this.
Before Game 7 of the Lakers series -- only the biggest game of the (Rockets) entire season -- they finally flinched. Here's what happened: Artest missed the first two team buses (the ones for players, coaches and team personnel) from Houston's hotel to the Staples Center and barely made the third and final bus, which was reserved for business staff, sponsors and friends of the team. These stunned people watched Artest sprint to the bus right before it left, jump on and take one of the remaining seats ... yes, wearing only his underwear. Owner Leslie Alexander happened to be sitting on the bus and witnessed the whole thing. And you wonder why the Houston Rockets didn't make any effort whatsoever to bring back Artest.
Now this story should come with a disclaimer: It is from ESPN’s Bill Simmons, AKA “The Sports Guy.” He is a Boston born, Celtics loving, Lakers hating comedy writer whose NBA insights over the years have proven to be wrong more than right. And, he’s tight with the brass in Houston, a group now happy to bash Artest.
But that doesn’t mean the story isn’t true, or that Artest is going to blend in fine.
Maybe the strong hand of Kobe Bryant and the experienced, Zen leadership of Phil Jackson as coach can keep Artest from acting up. Maybe. It’s not happened anywhere else he has been but it could happen here. And Jerry Buss could date a woman his own age. Not sure I’d bet on it, though.
But the bigger issue is getting Artest to fit in on the court. In the last couple places he has played, he has either been scoring option number one, or thought he was. Last season he tried to take over one of the Lakers/Rockets games (ignoring Yao Ming and hotter shooters) and just shot his team out of it with poor shot selection. All season Rockets opponents hoped Artest would break out of the set offense and try to take the game over. Then in another game against the Lakers Artest made the unwise decision of trying to get under Kobe Bryant’s skin. Sure, that won’t be a problem with Kobe as a teammate, but it makes you question his decision making.
The concern is obvious, Artest has never fit well in a highly structured offense, like what the Lakers run. This is a team that just won a title and now it has to deal with a guy who is going to be running onto the bus in his underwear. It’s all potentially very combustible.
Maybe this more mature, Lakers championship team can handle Artest, get him in the fold and make the team better. That remains to be seen. But we can bet, as sure as Kobe will get the ball in a game’s key moments, Artest is crazy enough to make this a very entertaining season in Los Angeles. And maybe take that key shot himself.