Ron Artest Adjusting to Life as a Laker
LOS ANGELES -- One of the biggest questions for the Lakers coming into this season was how well Ron Artest would be able to fit in with a team that has already won one championship and has its sights set on at least one more.
After the first game of the regular season, it's too early to tell whether or not Artest is an improvement or a downgrade over the departed Trevor Ariza. But what is clear is that while Artest is on the floor, he's going to be involved, and he's going to be a factor.
A quick look at the majority of Artest's first quarter possessions, in his first regular season game as a Laker, will certainly show as much.
Artest finished the first quarter of his Lakers career with four points (on 1-of-5 shooting), two assists and two turnovers, with zeroes in the other statistical categories. But the box score doesn't tell the story of how active he was out there, so let's take a closer look at how some of those possessions played out.
-- Just over three and a half minutes into the game, Artest tried to post up Al Thornton but picked up an offensive foul for being a little too aggressive.
-- A minute or so later, Artest broke from his spot in the triangle offense, choosing to force his way into the lane to screen a defender, instead of holding a screen at his rightful place in the offense near the top of the circle. The play resulted in a turnover by Kobe Bryant.
-- On the following offensive possession, Artest got one of those wide-open, Trevor Ariza-style looks from three-point land. But Artest clanked the corner three off the side of the rim, even though there wasn't a defender anywhere in sight.
-- A minute and a half later, Artest found Kobe Bryant in the lane for an assist, passing the ball from behind the three-point arc, his correct spot in the triangle offense.
-- A minute or so after that, Artest fed a nice entry pass into Lamar Odom, who finished inside after a couple of dribbles that negated Artest's assist.
-- With 3:30 to play, Artest scored his first points as a Laker, going 2-for-2 from the free throw line before finishing 1-for-5 from there the rest of the night.
-- A minute later, Artest aggressively forced an Al Thornton turnover before lobbing an alley-oop to Andrew Bynum for his second assist of the period.
-- Less than a minute later, Artest missed a jumper where he sized up Thornton, but got an offensive rebound before hustling for the ball and causing a Clippers' turnover after a miss from Andrew Bynum.
-- Artest scored again with under a minute left in the period on a nice feed from Odom, and then had a three-pointer rattle in-and-out at the period's final buzzer to finish where he did statistically.
As you can see, Artest was heavily involved in the goings on, even if statistically, his contributions didn't necessarily show up in the box score.
Phil Jackson approved of Artest's effort, and was especially appreciative of the job he was able to do on the Clippers' Al Thornton.
"Ron did really well," Jackson said. "I thought he shut down, defensively, very well the scoring forward, Thornton, for sure on the Clippers team, which was important to us tonight.
"There were some offensive things that he had some opportunities on that he didn't complete, but I thought he looked like he was in the mix and knew what was going on most of the time, and felt comfortable with what we were trying to do."
Artest talked about his comfort with the offense after the game, and said he was just trying to do what the coaching staff had asked.
"I'm trying to find my way around that and do what [Phil's] asking, and he wants me to be aggressive, so I'm just transitioning into that," Artest said.
"He just wants me to play -- play team ball and it'll all work out."
Artest finished with 10 points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal, and four turnovers, in almost 41 minutes of play. While he did only shoot 3-of-10 from the field, his shots came within the flow of the offense, and he was very active in other areas, especially defensively.
On a scale of 1-10, Artest said his comfort with the offense is "a 10" -- and he didn't hesitate at all before giving that answer. But it was clear that Artest was doing his best not to screw up a championship team, as opposed to being aggressive in a way that could possibly improve the quality of the team, and even make it stronger.