Be surprised by Thursday's news of Artest agreeing to sign with the Lakers only if you haven't been paying attention. L.A. was always prominent in his mind.
Plus -- and this is the really important part -- it's Ron Artest. When the 29-year-old forward told the
Maybe this is the first tangible fallout of the news that
There are two huge risks in the Lakers choosing Artest over
1. Ariza is proven gold. The Lakers won a championship with the 24-year-old starting, and producing in a big way, at small forward. Nothing beats that certainty: They know it works.
2. He's Ron Artest!
Then there is the one reason it makes all the sense in the world to the Lakers: Artest is better than Ariza.
Ariza is a good defender, especially on the perimeter, but Artest can be very good everywhere. He is strong enough to muscle inside and quick enough to keep up on the wing. Ariza is a solid offensive weapon -- 11.3 points and 49.7 percent shooting in the playoffs. Artest, though he gets a little three-point crazy and forces shots at times, will score from anywhere.
Let's just say the Lakers are a little practiced at the soap-opera life. Bryant is a very strong presence,
It's one of the reasons Bryant was always convinced Artest could work there and not be the latest distraction. As SI.com reported in May, after Houston and L.A. went seven sometimes-angry rounds in the Western Conference semifinals, Bryant remained intrigued about playing with Artest, largely because Kobe felt the culture of the Lakers could roll with the Artest moments. Not that he was alone in that thinking -- the front office had Artest, then in Sacramento, on the Plan B list if it had failed to land
There was never the animosity between Bryant and Artest that some tried to project. Quite the opposite. Even in the MMA moments, the two remained friends and the professional respect never waned. If Lakers executives ran the pursuit of Artest past Bryant, and they surely did, Kobe would have answered with a strong endorsement. Along the same lines, the front office may have wanted and gotten a thumbs up from Jackson, whose presence is especially important now, in what would also be an indication he will return as coach.
So it is that the Spurs added
Provided they bring back Odom, the Lakers are lacking only a true backup center behind