Ron Artest wants out?

Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith (C) tries to draw a foul from Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest at the Pepsi Center in Denver on January 21, 2011. The Lakers beat the Nuggets 107-97. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Marc Stein has a source that says that Ron Artest wants out of L.A.

Artest’s two main beefs?

1. He’s weary of being scapegoated for the team’s struggles and feels that he’s destined to always absorb the bulk of the blame no matter what happens because Jackson and Bryant are so dependent on the more glamorous contributions of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and will never publicly go after regal Laker lifer Derek Fisher.

2. As we heard at various points during his stops in Indiana, Sacramento and Houston, Artest is eventually going to squawk if he’s being marginalized in the offense, which inevitably disengages him from his defensive responsibilities.

After a so-so regular season, Artest justified his signing by coming up big in the playoffs. He followed up Kobe Bryant’s airball with a game-winning layup against the Suns in Game 5 and then hit a HUGE three-pointer against the Celtics in Game 7.

But he’s averaging just 8.1 points and 2.9 rebounds this season, which are easily career lows. The problem here is not that Artest wants out, it’s that nobody is going to trade for him. He’s 31, and his game has (seemingly) fallen off a cliff. The Lakers aren’t happy with the way he’s defending, and that might be a result of how he’s been marginalized offensively. He has three years and almost $22 million remaining on his deal, and he has a reputation for being a malcontent — who is going to want to take that contract on?

No, the Lakers are stuck with Ron Artest and Ron Artest is stuck with the Lakers.

Trevor Ariza is starting to look pretty good, isn’t he?

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Ariza/Collison trade reaction

Bob Kravitz, Indianapolis Star: If coach Jim O’Brien can’t work with Collison, if he has the same issues with him that he did with Tinsley and Ford, then we can fairly say it’s an O’Brien problem and not a player problem. My sense is, that won’t happen. What this does is put more pressure on O’Brien to produce in the final year of his contract, although it’s the kind of pressure he surely will welcome. Until now, he has been asked to win with lousy players. Now he has some horses. Let’s just say, if the Pacers can’t make a run at .500 with Collison, management’s decision regarding O’Brien’s future will be an easy one. As for Bird and Morway, this one might have been a job-saver. As the weeks wore on without any Pacers news, and news of Donnie Walsh’s imminent departure from New York, it struck me that Walsh might land back here in Indy to replace Bird. But give Bird and Morway credit: They stuck to their guns, refused to take on big contracts for short-term gain, and kept their eyes on the ball. Finally, we’re seeing the dividends.

John DeShazier, The Times-Picayune: One, he got veteran help in Ariza, a 25-year-old, former NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 who’s coming off his best statistical season. Yes, there’s a risk involved. Collison was one of the league’s best rookies last season and viewed as the ideal backup to Chris Paul at point guard. He could become an All-Star, but the key word is could — 40 or 50 standout games as a rookie don’t constitute a career. Meanwhile, Ariza is a six-year pro whose career has arched upward. Two, he got rid of a declining player with a bad contract (Posey) and an unproductive one (Wright) who assured his departure by refusing to play in summer league after new coach Monty Williams asked him to. It doesn’t matter much whether Belinelli can play, though he’s 6-foot-5 and a career 39 percent shooter from 3-point range, compared to Wright, who was as likely as not to airball a foul shot. A Wright-for-anyone trade falls in the addition by subtraction file. As nice as Wright was, no one accused him of actually “getting” it.

Dave D’Alessandro, The Star-Ledger: The deal is low-risk and high-reward for Nets GM Billy King, because it’s rare to land a productive power forward in the prime of his career with an expiring contract, one who is willing to hold a job until rookie Derrick Favors is ready to snatch it from him. The 6-10 Murphy is one of the league’s most unique players, a power forward who can be a game-buster from the arc but can also throw his weight around. Two seasons ago, he became the first player in NBA history to finish in the top five among the league’s rebounders (11.8 rpg) and 3-point shooters (.450).

Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle: The Rockets tried to trade to get Courtney Lee in the 2008 NBA Draft. They tried to trade to get him last year before the Orlando Magic traded him to the New Jersey Nets. They tried to trade to get him after he went to the Nets. Finally Wednesday, the Rockets landed Lee, sending forward Trevor Ariza to the New Orleans Hornets after just one season in Houston to complete a four-team, five-player deal.In two seasons, the 6-5 Lee has averaged 10.3 points on 44.2 percent shooting. He averaged 12.5 points with the Nets. The Rockets, however, were particularly drawn to his defense, citing his ability to defend at three positions. “He’s very intriguing defensively,” Rockets vice president for player personnel Gersson Rosas said. “He’s going to follow the game plan to a T. He eats up direction and guidance from coaches. “He can defend big ‘ones’ like Deron Williams, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Kidd. He gives us a direction we did not have before. He’s cut from the same cloth as Shane Battier. He really values the details, has a great approach. He really takes it personal.”

Note: You can read my take here.

Ariza, Collison involved in four-team trade

Mar. 09, 2010 - Washington, China - (100310) -- WASHINGTON, March 10, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Trevor Ariza (C) of Houston Rockets shoots during the NBA game between Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards in Washington, the United States, on March 9, 2010. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun.

I wouldn’t call this a ‘mega-trade’ but it’s a pretty significant in terms of the players involved and its impact on the potential departure of Chris Paul.

Chad Ford has the (brief) details:

In the proposed deal, the Houston Rockets will send Trevor Ariza to the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets will send Darren Collison and James Posey to the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers will send Troy Murphy to the New Jersey Nets. And the Nets will send Courtney Lee to the Rockets.

Ford is now reporting that this trade is official.

Here is the deal in the ESPN Trade Machine. Click on the picture to see a bigger version.

Let’s look at the Hornets first since they’re the ones trying to satisfy Chris Paul. They are essentially trading away a good up-and-coming point guard in Darren Collison along with James Posey and the two years remaining on his contract. In return, they’re getting Trevor Ariza, who averaged 15-6-4 while shooting under 40% from the field last season for the Rockets.

I thought they might be able to get a little more for Collison, but Ariza is valuable because he’s an athletic wing who can score a little, but can really defend. He’ll fit in nicely alongside Paul, Marcus Thornton and David West in the Hornets’ starting lineup (assuming Monty Williams starts him). They were also able to shed Posey’s contract, which makes the Ariza acquisition a financial wash for the next two seasons. For the Hornets’ sake, I do wish he could shoot the three a little better, but maybe his 3PT accuracy will rise from its 2009-10 levels (33%) with Paul setting him up for better looks.

Meanwhile, the Pacers get their point guard of the future (Collison) by trading away Murphy, who is in the last year of his deal. Financially, Collison and Posey will cost them an extra $4.2 million because most of their salaries are offset by the loss of Murphy’s salary ($12.0 million) this season. This is really a great move by the Pacers. Collison is going to be a very good point guard in the NBA for a very long time.

As for the Rockets and the Nets — well, the Rockets will shed Ariza’s salary, giving them an additional $4.6 million of cap space heading into the summer of 2011. That should be more than enough to sign a max free agent. Conversely, the Nets add Murphy at the expense of Lee, but his deal is expiring, so it looks like he’ll serve as a stopgap at power forward while the franchise waits for Derrick Favors to develop.

In the end, is this a game-changer for Paul and the Hornets? No, but it’s a step in the right direction. After a summer of treading water (or even losing ground by trading away the #11 pick), the franchise has fully committed to Paul by trading away their backup plan (Collison) for someone who can help him win now.

Given this move, it looks like those who had written off the possibility that Paul would stay in New Orleans were wrong. I don’t think the Hornets would have swung this deal had they thought that Paul was serious about forcing a trade. Either that, or the Hornets have completely misread Paul’s intentions.

WCF Game 5: Ron Artest goes from goat to hero

After Ron Artest almost blew the game with an ill-advised shot, he ended up winning it for the Lakers. With 1:01 remaining and the Lakers up three, Ron Artest bricked a 20-foot jumper. Pau Gasol cleared the offensive rebound and passed it out to Artest, who (ponderously) took a three with 0:56 remaining. Phil Jackson gave him an earful during the timeout, and after Jason Richardson banked home the game-tying three with 0:03 to play, it looked like the game was heading to overtime, barring a Kobe Bryant miracle shot, of course.

Bryant got his shot, but it was a terrible look, and there was enough time left on the clock for Artest to collect the rebound and put it back in. It sure seems like there is so much attention paid to Kobe that everyone’s watching him shoot instead of getting into position for the defensive rebound. It was Richardson who failed to box out Artest.

Has Artest finally validated the Lakers’ decision to sign him instead of re-signing Trevor Ariza?

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Houston’s pitch to Chris Bosh

Last Friday, Chris Bosh used his Twitter page to ask his fans where he should play and why. Some see the move as harmless, while others think he’s out of line for baiting his fans like that. The truth is probably somewhere in between. With the playoffs in full swing — and Bosh sitting at home — I suspect he was missing the limelight a little bit and needed the ego boost.

Regardless, the move confirms that Bosh is seriously considering changing zip codes this summer and Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle suggests that the Rockets can put together one hell of a pitch for the native Texan.

Chris Bosh will open his front door at 12:01 a.m. July 1 and see a smiling Daryl Morey standing between Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming.

How’s that for a first impression?

Just to be clear, Justice doesn’t know that this is the plan, but if it is, that would be a pretty serious pitch. While most of the other teams with cap space — Miami, New York, Chicago, in particular — will be chasing after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Houston may be the only team that has Bosh at the top of its list. And that may go a long way with Bosh, who has said in the past that he is the kind of player a franchise can build around.

The presence of Olajuwon and Yao would give a glimpse of the franchise’s past and potential future. Olajuwon won back-to-back titles in the ’90s while Yao is the big center that Bosh has always wanted to play with. (Remember, he thinks of himself as a power forward, not a center.)

The issue with the Rockets is that they don’t have any cap space and can’t sign Bosh outright. But if they can convince him to come to Houston, then the Rockets can then work out a deal with Toronto that is mutually beneficial. Marc Stein has a few ideas:

Read the rest of this entry »

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