Having watched the Cavaliers, Spurs and Magic make big moves to challenge their defense of the title, the Lakers' bold response has trumped them all. By agreeing to terms with
There will be a lot of talk raised about Artest's history and ego, but in a strange way, those influences will enhance his value to the Lakers. He showed in Houston that he could go a full season without causing problems, and now that he is close to winning a title, he'll be more focused than ever on not repeating his past mistakes. As for his ego, this is Artest's long-sought opportunity to prove he is peers with
I see little risk and huge potential reward for the Lakers, who will be paying Artest close to $6 million next season. If something crazy were to come up, then they could afford to cut him loose. But that's not going to happen. Between Bryant and Jackson, and their focus on defending the title, Artest is going to be in an environment that brings out the best in him. And when he's playing well, Artest affects the game at both ends of the floor like few players in the league.
Think about a potential rematch of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Celtics. Instead of starting
One franchise that could have outbid the Lakers for Artest was Portland, which has a need at small forward and would have benefited from Artest's scoring and defense. But the Trail Blazers have trumpeted their players as reliable, young citizens who don't cause trouble. It's doubtful they could have changed course to make room for the complicated biography of Artest.
Instead, the Blazers attempted to spend their money on small forward
Now the question becomes whether the Blazers should make a run at another free agent or carry their cap space into 2009-10 and be available to take on a big salary up to the trading deadline in February. If they don't like the market now, then something new could pop up during the first half of the season.
Meanwhile, the Celtics landed their targeted free agent when
Rondo appeared to be available last month, but if the Celtics find themselves back in the Finals against the Lakers, they'll need him to fully exploit his mismatch against the 35-year-old