(originally posted on www.lakerline.com, October 20th)
While Laker fans salivated over a shiny new Larry O’ Brien trophy, Mitch Kupchak knew that the bevy of off-season movement in the NBA (Wallace, Carter, Shaq, etc) would necessitate another big move; and no, Lamar Odom’s laborious decision to return does not constitute a Big Move. The answer, though, to the League’s second year of seismic restructuring (lest we forget Shaq, Kidd, Ben Wallace, Delonte West) was a transaction that provided the Lakers with the ultimate stopper and a dynamite sidekick to Michael 2.0: Scottie 2.0, otherwise known as Ron Artest.
Artest, who will be wearing number 37 to commemorate the number of weeks the late Michael Jackson’s Thriller spent at Number One (?!?!?), brings an assassin’s mentality to the floor EVERY single night as well as the second highest basketball IQ in the League. The coldest, fiercest, illest assassin of course will be his teammate, and the Michael to Artest’s Pippen.
Lofty praise? Check out the numbers:
Artest: 16.1ppg, 5.1rpg, 3.2apg, 2.1steals; 2003 NBA Defensive Player of the Year
Pippen: 16.1ppg, 6.4rpg, 5.2apg, 2 steals; 8-time NBA All-Defensive 1st team
More important, as crazy as Artest may be off the court, he is that savvy on the floor; remember in the Rockets series this past playoff season it was Artest that proved he was the ONLY player in the league capable of rattling Kobe Bryant. . .now they are colleagues.
Scottie was such a good ‘second-fiddle’ to Michael because he believed – in his mind, he knew – that he was every bit the player as his more-famous teammate. Ron’s disposition and confidence has proven frighteningly similar, as his competitive displays have captivated & frightened fans in arenas coast to coast.
While basketball fans realize that nobody was Michael, it was that exact mentality that bred the confidence necessary to be the go-to guy during the rare Jordan off-night. Ron will provide the same cushion – and competitive inspiration – for Kobe, who is just now at the age of decline. Ron, all 260+ pounds of him, will be able to shoulder the load on nights that Kobe’s finger acts up, or when he simply is too tired to hoist his prerequisite 30 shots per 48 minutes.
The acquisition of Artest will provide Laker fans with a glimpse of the United Center in the mid-90’s; an unstoppable legend running the Show with a tough-nosed superstar in tow. Look closely above that giant purple 37 on the back of those gold jerseys and you just might see a familiar name: Ronnie Pippen.