Lakers fans, time to go carve something crazy into your hair.
Do it in honor of the master of it, Ron Artest. Because come July 8 he will be the newest Laker (that’s the first day signings are permitted).
Artest is a mixed bag. The guy is one of the better defenders in the league. The instigator of the Brawl at the Palace in Detroit in 2004 that led to a 73 game suspension. The guy who intimidates opponents with ferocious defense. The guy that Indiana and Sacramento and Houston have wanted to get rid of. The guy once charged with animal abuse who is now a PETA spokesman.
The terms of the deal are not yet public but it is clear it will be for the mid-level exception to the NBA’s over complicated salary cap — basically $5.6 million a season. There are reports of it being a three year deal, others are saying five years, although for the Lakers shorter is better.
Artest is an undeniable talent. He is as intimidating a defender as there is in the league. He can shoot threes — he hit 40% last season. He has a good post-up game. His physicality and intensity intimidates opponents. And everywhere he has been his teammates have loved him.
But this is a high risk, high reward move for the Lakers.
Los Angeles is counting on the strong presence of Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant to keep a true wild card in line. Especially between the lines — Artest cost the Houston Rockets games against the Lakers last season when he tried to take over at the end rather than get the ball to better shooting teammates. He did that in Sacramento, too.
And the Lakers have now broken up a championship team to bring in a guy some have said is a cancer in the clubhouse. The move also means the Lakers will not bring back Trevor Ariza, who had grown to be a fan favorite.
The issue was cost — Ariza’s agent David Lee wanted more than the mid-level exception for his client, and as is his style he was very public in his negotiations. He told everyone that would listen that he was disappointed in how the Lakers were negotiating and that LeBron James had called to talk. And that Houston officials had flown out to talk to him.
The Lakers as a franchise don’t like public negotiations. And they were clearly frustrated with Lee during the negotiations for his other client, Andrew Bynum. But in this case the Lakers had options. Options like Artest. Ironically, this really limits Ariza’s options and now he will not get more than the mid-level exception money.
And he will not get another championship ring. Whether the Lakers can win one with Artest will be an interesting soap opera.
Kurt Helin shows off his funky haircut over at Forum Blue & Gold.