UPDATE 3:44 pm: In a predictable response, Ron Artest’s agent denied that his client wants to be traded from the Lakers and told that to the Los Angeles Times Lakers blog.
“Ron is not looking for a trade,” (David) Bauman said. “The frustration is there among everyone on the team. But Ron is a Laker, and he just wants to win. Ron is frustrated with the losing, as everybody is.”
Is this just an agent wisely covering for his client? Maybe. Does this mean Artest never really wanted to be traded? Maybe. Does this mean Ron Artest’s mind changed in the last couple hours? Maybe.
Predicting the ever shifting reality of Ron Artest is a fools errand I do not wish to participate in.
1:07 pm: The Lakers front office has talked openly about trying to shake things up by a trade.
Ron Artest has raised his hand and volunteered, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.
One source close to the situation insists that Ron Artest wants out.
Asked to react to that, Artest’s agent David Bauman declined comment….
I’ve nonetheless been assured this week that Artest — though he hasn’t outright demanded a trade and is likely to publicly deny it — is serious about wanting to be dealt somewhere “he can have fun again” less than a year removed from the pivotal role he played in that ring-clinching Game 7 with Boston that the Lakers so nearly squandered.
Why? Ron Artest is basically offensive option number four in L.A. — go stand in the corner and knock down threes. He’s struggled on offense this season, and traditionally when he struggles on that end of the floor he doesn’t defend as well. Plus, Artest probably takes on more than his fair share of the criticism when things go wrong on the Lakers.
Also, he’s Ron Artest. Not sure he was ever meant to put down basketball roots somewhere forever.
One little problem with this:
There is almost zero chance the Lakers can trade Artest. (I would say there is a better chance of Middle East peace but if the Gilbert Arenas situation taught us anything it’s that no deal is untradeable.)
Ron Artest is in the second year of his contract at age 31 — he has three years and $22 million left after this season. That is the big problem. Heading into an uncertain economic future for the NBA — nobody knows what the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will look like — teams are not going to take on that kind of salary. Especially for a player having the worst offensive year of his career, implying his skills are slipping (whether that is Artest or a function of the offense you can debate amongst yourselves).
To use an easy example, Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince would be a good fit for the Lakers at the three. He’s an expiring $11.1 million deal, so technically a deal like Artest and Luke Walton or Steve Blake would work — but why would Detroit do that? They are a team trying to rebuild, and Walton has two years and Blake three after this season on their deals. Detroit would be committing to salary for years to get players that are not young and not providing more value than they have now. It makes no sense for them at all.
That basic problem repeats itself around the league.
Artest is one guy whose mood can swing quickly and by this time next week he could be loving life with the Lakers again. And with that, his play could pick up.
Right now, if Artest really would be happy to say goodbye to Hollywood, it would not be a shock. But it’s not going to happen. So he needs to find a way to get his head screwed on right before the playoffs, when the Lakes will again need him as they did during Game 7 of the finals last season.