Did the Lakers make a mistake signing Artest instead of Ariza?

Even Ron Artest himself says (via Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times) that Ariza was a better fit…and a better player.

“He’s a better player than me,” Artest said Tuesday.

But Ron-Ron, nobody ever said he was better, we just said he was a better fit.

“He’s a better player,” Artest repeated emphatically. “He’s won a ring, I haven’t. I can’t even compare to him. He’s a better player.”

Artest also agrees, incidentally, with the part about Ariza being a better fit.

“He probably is,” Artest said. “He’s a role player, a great role player. I haven’t been a role player. Many times I’ve had to carry the load, this is a different look for me.”

I don’t know about you, but I sense a little sarcasm there. Later, Artest talked about how “unbelievable” his defense has been:

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Line of the Night (12/9): Aaron Brooks

After losing to the Grizzlies the night before, I fully expected the Cavs to come out sharp and focused in Houston. But the Rockets jumped out to a 33-19 lead at the end of the first quarter and went on to win, 95-85. A big reason for the win was the fine play of Aaron Brooks, who thoroughly outplayed Mo Williams at the point. Brooks posted 27 points, six assists and three rebounds. He wasn’t great from the field (7-17) but he nailed 12 of 13 free throws on the night.

Trevor Ariza (26-5-2, two steals) also played well. After his Laker deal fell through, he reportedly had an opportunity to sign with the Cavs in the offseason, but didn’t think it was a great fit.

LeBron’s supporting cast didn’t show up. Williams (7p, 4a) and Shaquille O’Neal (7p, 10r) combined to shoot just 4 of 18 from the field.

With the win, the Rockets advance to 12-9, while the Cavs fell to 15-7.

Line of the Night (11/15): Aaron Brooks

Easily the most surprising score from yesterday’s action is the Rockets’ 101-91 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles. Brooks scored a career-high 33 points (including five three-pointers), while also grabbing six rebounds and dropping four dimes. He said that he was inspired by seeing an NBA championship ring for the first time. (Trevor Ariza received his ring before the game.)

Speaking of Ariza, he posted nine points, eight rebounds, four assists, four steals, two blocked shots and six turnovers. He was statistically outplayed by Ron Artest (22 points, six rebounds, three steals), but his team got the win.

The Rockets advance to 6-4, while the defending champs drop to 7-3 with their second straight loss. The Lakers need Pau Gasol back in a big way.

The Lakers never made an official offer to Ariza

Trevor Ariza is featured in the most recent issue of ESPN The Magazine and in an article written by Sam Alipour, he discusses how he came to sign with Houston instead of staying put and re-signing with the Lakers. (Insider subscription required.)

That script began to be rewritten at the toll of free agency, 12:01 a.m. on July 1, one minute into the day after Ariza’s birthday. He was still celebrating with family when he received a call from his agent, David Lee. “He said, ‘The Lakers called, and they think you’re worth only the midlevel,’ ” or $5.8 million a year, Ariza recounts. Technically, it wasn’t even an offer. Says Lee of the Lakers GM, “Mitch Kupchak’s exact quote was, ‘We want Trevor on the cheap, and we’re not going to make an offer. Find what the market will bear and come back to us.’ ”

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Simmons uses “Almost Famous” to sum up NBA offseason

Bill Simmons is convinced that “Almost Famous” is the quintessential movie of the aughts, so much so that he decided to pull quotes from the movie and apply them to the 2009 NBA offseason. Here’s an example.

3. Some of the stuff that happens is good for a few people to know about, as opposed to, say … a million people.

To Artest. Here’s a classic case of someone hoodwinking the American public with a 10-year pattern of bizarre behavior that eventually immunized them to all future crazy Ron Artest stories and anecdotes, such as the fact that he’s wearing No. 37 to honor Michael Jackson because it’s the same number of weeks that “Thriller” led the charts (um, what?), or his recent revelation that he had been pining to play for the Lakers for two solid years. Artest told reporters that he wandered into the Lakers’ locker room to express that desire to a showering Kobe Bryant — right after L.A.’s bitter Game 6 thrashing in Boston in the 2008 Finals, no less — adding, “Yeah, I walked in the shower. I’m not a homosexual or nothing like that, but Kobe had no clothes on.”

These anecdotes just bounce off people now. Artest is a benevolent crazy. Or so we think. Being around this nuttiness every day is a little different from merely hearing about the nuttiness in secondhand anecdotes. I know for a fact he routinely broke plays on offense and is still a handful behind the scenes, and the Rockets buried every 2008-09 story that would have made this patently clear. For instance, Artest routinely walked around in his underwear in public places: the Rockets’ team bus, hotels, you name it. People around the team barely flinched after a while. Before Game 7 of the Lakers series — only the biggest game of the entire season — they finally flinched.

Here’s what happened: Artest missed the first two team buses (the ones for players, coaches and team personnel) from Houston’s hotel to the Staples Center and barely made the third and final bus, which was reserved for business staff, sponsors and friends of the team. These stunned people watched Artest sprint to the bus right before it left, jump on and take one of the remaining seats … yes, wearing only his underwear. Owner Leslie Alexander happened to be sitting on the bus and witnessed the whole thing. And you wonder why the Houston Rockets didn’t make any effort whatsoever to bring back Artest.

While I believe Artest is an upgrade over Trevor Ariza for the next 2-3 years, he has to stay relatively sane. While Artest walking around in public in his underwear is certainly strange, Simmons is right — it’s not surprising. We’re immune to these types of stories. Ron Artest is crazy. But on the court, he’s pretty much kept it together for the last few years and he can help the Lakers…if he keeps it together. Did I mention that he has to keep it together?

He has to keep it together.

But back to “Almost Famous.” I too loved this movie, and after reading Simmons’ praise for the director’s cut, I’m going to try to catch it real soon. But, to me, the film represents the only time that Kate Hudson starred in anything good. Check out this list of her starring credits from IMDB.com…

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