About that other LA team

I'm promoting Citizen Zhiv's excellent Lakers post to the front page - I'm not actually sure why Zhiv relegated himself to the sidebar in the first place.  I have a couple of additional thoughts on Ariza/Artest as well.  The story prior to these signings was that Ariza was disappointed that the Lakers weren't willing to go higher than the MLE.  So it makes little sense that he would turn around and sign for the MLE with another team.  But if Ariza was unwilling to give the Lakers a post ring discount, and the Lakers were equally unwilling to give Ariza a post ring bonus, it seems to indicate that things aren't all that wonderful in purple and gold.  It does seem strange to have Ariza and Battier on the same team.  I can't think of another team, really ever, who had two such glue guys starting on the wings - NBA teams almost ALWAYS have a primary scoring threat on the wing.  What is TMac's status?  Did they sign Ariza to the full MLE to come off the bench?  Is Battier coming off the bench?  Morey knows what he likes, and Adelman can coach, and Houston has been the single biggest over-achiever in the NBA for two straight years, playing competitively even as their mega-stars drop like flies - so it will be interesting to see what happens.  But with Yao's injury, TMac's uncertainty and Artest gone, from a Clipper-centric standpoint it's hard not to think that a spot at the playoff table just opened up.

As for the Lakers, Zhiv hints at what I'll say outright - that team is loaded, and would likely be the favorite to win another title in almost any scenario.  BUT the one thing that can screw up a loaded team is bad chemistry, and there's a boatload of that in Ron Artest's brain.  He's the one guy in the NBA I would not have touched if I was Mitch Kupchak, talented as he is.

Zhiv after the jump.

Listened to a fair amount of commentary about the Artest-Ariza switch today.  It's kind of funny how people become optimistic (!) when events change.  Human nature I guess.

One way that it does make sense to me is if you look at Artest as a replacement for BOTH Ariza and Odom.  He combines features of the two players, especially for defense and rebounding purposes, although he's not nearly the rebounder that LO is.  The assumption here, of course, is that the Lakers don't resign Odom and have no intention of doing so.  

It happens to be Odom's bad luck that he's a UFA in a horrible financial offseason.  You know it's bad when people are freaking out at 5yr/50mil deals as if they're ridiculously expensive.  People have pretty short memories I guess.  Wait until the numbers start getting thrown around next year.  And that's what LO should probably do, sign a one-year deal somewhere.  He's a chump, and it would be extremely disappointing, if he signs a longterm deal with the Lakers for well below his value, at the 5yrs/40mil number that's being tossed around.  A chump, because the Lakers would be valuing him at 80 million, only they would be paying half of that to him and the other half to the rest of the league. 

Apparently no one notified most commentators on the Lakers about the "Glue Guy" concept.  We're familiar with it here in Clipperdom because of Al Thornton's shortcomings.  Thornton is no Artest, although he seems more rational and more of a solid citizen, but Artest uses his strength and size to play defense in ways that Thornton has never dreamed of. 

But my question is whether the Lakers watched the tape of their own victory over the Rockets before they signed Artest.  Houston was surprisingly competitive with the Lakers, taking them to 7 games as we know, going on runs and getting stops and winning games.  Maybe it was just me, but the guy who seemed to stop Houston more often than not was Artest himself, not just missing shots, although he certainly did plenty of that, but because he was a black hole and once the ball went to him it didn't come out.  Mark Jackson, commenting, kept saying that at times it was the fault of the Rocket pgs, because they needed to know to keep the ball out of his hands.

It seems clear that Daryl Morey, he of the careful breakdown of the Battier "intangibles," grabbed Ariza so quickly because he saw him as a young Glue Guy with upside, at a great price. 

Does anybody think that Houston beats the Lakers in that series if Ariza (shooting well from deep) plays for the Rockets, and Artest (clanking and ballstopping) plays for the Lakers?  The series itself won't be duplicated and Houston faces some new challenges, but did the Lakers ask themselves this question?  And with Bynum less of a factor than might have been expected, what was the big difference between the championship Lakers and the team that lost to Boston:  a healthy and effective Trevor Ariza.

The Lakers do have a good Glue Guy on their roster, and they're paying him a lot of money:  Luke Walton.  I don't know if it's underappreciated that the Lakers were able to start Ariza and bring Odom off the bench, but it made them an extremely formidable squad.  Odom himself seems pretty gluey, by the way--something other teams should realize as he sits out there, available.  If Odom leaves the Lakers would have a powerful starting lineup, with Bynum-Gasol-Artest-Kobe vaguely reminiscent of Shaq-Malone-Kobe-Payton.  People talk about how well Phil Jackson handled Dennis Rodman, but Rodman was a very specific creature, and it's significant that he had zero needs on offense.  Artest is a different story, and note the articles from Houston about how that team isn't going to miss him at all.  At any rate, without Odom around, the Lakers Glue Guy (Walton) will be coming off the bench and he doesn't defend or rebound particularly well.  Or does anybody think that Artest will come off the bench as peacefully as Odom did last season?  You want a scorer like Thornton or an all-purpose talent like Odom coming off the bench anyway, not an Artest.

I'm actually surprised that the Lakers spent the money at all, and they may well be able to make a deal with Odom.  As long as they have Kobe and Gasol they're going to be a great team.  But there are a lot of great teams, and they'll have some significant new challenges with this latest move.

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