Artest in L.A. Could Most Hurt Gasol
But in real basketball results, Pau Gasol might be the most endangered Laker in all of this. Kobe ain't giving up shots to Ron-Ron ... but someone will have to, unless you think Artest -- who has in the past placed himself in the same league as Kobe and LeBron James -- will shave half his offense to become Trevor Ariza II. I sincerely doubt our protagonist will be so generous. So the Laker attacker who requires the ball to be fed -- Pau -- figures to suffer.
Even this past postseason, when the Lakers looked so dominant (save a tough series against Artest's Rockets), the chorus called for more Pau touches. It's the coda of the big man, the call for the ball, especially for a forward as selfless as Gasol. But teams get only so many possessions, and every touch for Pau this year (more or less) meant one less touch for Kobe, the reigning MVP. I would imagine most Lakers fans wished at some point last season Pau would get the ball more frequently, even if in the end the arrangement worked out famously.
Ariza, the player we assume Ron-Ron will replace in the starting lineup, averaged 10 FGAs per 36 minutes of play last season. Artest averaged more than 15 on a team with fewer possessions to go around. That's more than any Laker not named Kobe last season.
Those shots Ron-Ron has always felt he needed, they aren't all coming from Kobe's ammo belt. And let's not kid ourselves about whatever statements Artest may make about coming to L.A. to play defense, to be Kobe's enforcer. He said the same thing about Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady in Houston. And Ron ended up shooting more frequently on a per-minute basis than both of them.
Savor the leather this summer, Pau. There's a chance that come next season, you ain't gonna touch it.