As a child growing up in the West Indies, I can remember my grandmother telling me “…… what doesn’t hurt you , won’t kill you.” Imagine to my surprise then when I heard that the Los Angeles Lakers had signed the enfant-terrible’ Ron Artest . Now don’t get me wrong , as a player , I admire Artest for what he brings to the table. An unstoppable zest for the game and a zeal not too often seen from players with far more ability but even less heart. In many respects after the Kobe -Shaq era of unbridled success with the exception of the lopsided loss of an NBA championship series to the Detroit Pistons . The last thing one might have expected , was the for the Lakers to have made a full court press and to have acquired Artest as a free agent.
And if one remembers at the time , that Lakers’ team had enough egos on it , that it would’ve made more sense to have five separate balls on the court . Rather than them all having to share one apiece. You had Kobe Bryant , Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, Karl Malone and last but not least Derek Fisher.
There’s a saying that oil and water don’t mix . And in the case of adding Malone and Payton into the mix. Whilst on paper , it may well have all looked good. And the NBA pundits were saying that the Lakers at the time were “a sure thing thing to win to win it all “. The fact of the matter was the Lakers were too cock sure of themselves. And as the complacency set in , so too did the acrimony between the quartet of superstars on the team. What transpired in those NBA Finals was a lesson as why the old adage stills holds true. “Too many Chiefs not enough Indians .”
And the NBA Finals 2003-04 truly set the Lakers apart from other teams that’ve made the NBA Finals. Point blank favorites they would succumb to the Pistons in a rout unprecedented in its execution and precision. The Lakers’ players were made to look languid and very much like a group of aged geriatrics who knowingly looked out of place. And at the end of it all the Pistons would triumph with an emphatic 4-1 series win and with Chauncey Billups being named Finals’ Series MVP.
Courtesy of nbcsports.com and The Orange County Register
‘Our focus is on getting better. It’s not really on replicating what we did’
By Kevin Ding Orange County Register
You might’ve forgotten, and Kobe Bryant almost has by now, but the Lakers broke through for a championship not too long ago … and had some trouble when they reconvened for the first time to defend it.
It was the 2000-01 season, and it was the first time Bryant’s feud with Shaquille O’Neal spread to the public consciousness.
O’Neal had a traditional plan that they could just replay the previous season; Bryant came back with new muscles to flex. Two-and-a-half months into the schedule, they were sniping through the media about Bryant overdoing his offense and O’Neal dogging it on defense.
The issue, as described back then by one Phil Jackson, was this about Bryant: “Some nights he’s in balance. Some nights it’s over the edge with trying to find how he can do a little bit better.”
In the end, Bryant hiked his scoring average from 22.5 points to 28.5 (more than he averaged in either of the past two seasons, by the way) and infused the Lakers with a fire they needed to become a far better team.
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Now come full circle, after the Lakers’ overwhelming triumph over the outmaneuvered and overwhelmed Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals of the 2008-09 season. Whereby, the Lakers secured their fifteenth NBA title and their coach Phil Jackson , his tenth . All it’s said had to be right in “Lakerland”. However , the tremors were there for all to witness, as the negotiations started in earnest for the renewal of contracts for players who were part of the team’s triumph. Lamar Odom it was suggested , that he was no longer a valid part of the team. And for Trevor Ariza , he felt that he deserved not only more playing time but also more money. For the Lakers’ hierarchy, a decision had to be made . And that laid in the hands of not only the owner , Dr. Jerry Buss . But also that of Phil Jackson and the team’s GM, Mitch Kupchak.
Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak speaks about what he feels that Ron Artest can provide for the Lakers as a player. The GM also speaks about the loss of Trevor Ariza , who signed with the Houston Rockets as a free agent.
Much to everyone’s surprise Ariza was allowed to flee and he signed with the Houston Rockets . Odom was re-signed by the team. But low and behold , within their midst came Ron Artest , hoping to pursue his goal of winning an NBA championship. And that comes with baggage included no doubt ? The question might now have to ask, is whether or not Artest can acclimatize himself amongst his new-found teammates and not become a disruptive distraction. We all found it somewhat surprising that during the playoffs with the Rockets , that he alongside Aaron Brooks ,showed leadership and played with a great deal of aplomb and zeal. And though the team’s heroic effort came up short , it showed Ron Artest in a light not previously seen before. That was with a Rockets team that didn’t have the services of either Tracy McGrady or Yao Ming for the playoffs. Yao Ming was lost prior to start of those playoffs. And McGrady as we know , well he’s about as soft as they come and then some !
The Los Angeles Lakers are most certainly looking to repeat as NBA champions. And if anything, they will be looked upon as the presumptive favorites within the Western Conference of the NBA. Though it has to be said that the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks , New Orleans > Hornets, Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns would all like to think of themselves as noteworthy candidates to assume that mantel as favorites. But in all honesty, it is the Lakers who definitely have the most well rounded roster and the ability to win it all, of the favored representatives in the conference. That’s got to be the case with the addition of Ron Artest. He gives the team an additional offensive option beyond Bryant , Odom and Pau Gasol . And at the same time his defensive play cannot be questioned , as he’s amongst the very best in the game.
And while there’s no doubt that in many people’s eyes the Los Angeles Lakers are the team to beat. In the Eastern Conference the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic would like to feel that they’ll be able to negate those thoughts. If nothing else they’ll do their utmost to prove that the supremacy of the NBA just doesn’t reside in the West but like a pendulum it tends to swing both ways.
As to what now lies ahead for Artest and his new teammates. The whole NBA world awaits as to what may well materialize. None more so than the fans of the Lakers , who now feel that even with the loss of Ariza . They are now in much better shape than before . As to what this’ll also mean for Kobe Bryant. One can surmise that the player is no doubt happy with outcome. Let’s just hope that two won’t at all be pursuing a joint recording and rap career . God knows we’ve had to suffer the indignity of listening to Bryant rap , much less the indecipherable mono-toned absurdities of Artest. It’ll be better for all of us , if they just let their ballin’ on the court speak for itself , wouldn’t you say ?