Artest to Step Up in Barnes’ Absence

The injury to Barnes is going to hurt the Lakers most, should Kobe Bryant have to take on an additional 5-6 minutes to his current 33 minutes per game average. Last year, the main back-up to Artest was Bryant, which is why the Lakers sought out Barnes’ services in the first place. While Bryant enjoys more playing time at the wing, Jackson isn’t about to wear him down to fill the void left by Barnes, much like Pau Gasol filled the void for Andrew Bynum. We all know how fatigued Gasol was even as Bynum was steadily coming back to form. Should the same happen with Bryant, it won’t be approaching the mid-point of the season, it’ll be mid-March.

Prior to going down, Barnes was out-playing Artest, prompting some to think it would be a better idea for them to flip-flop spots on the roster.

Forward thinking for sure, no pun intended, but Phil Jackson would never give Artest the backseat to Barnes. Sure, Artest has been thrown for a loop since Barnes has been acquired. He’s played less and has found himself on the bench too often during fourth quarters. While Artest has said all season long that he doesn’t care about how many minutes he plays, he’s also expressed that he wants to remain a relevant player. He wasn’t doing that while being somewhat outshined by Barnes.

If the Lakers are to survive the injury to Barnes, Ron Artest must step up.

Artest can be effective in many ways. Defensively, he can hurt other teams. At times, he’s come through as a spot-up shooter. When he makes cuts at the basket and is aware of the other players operating in the paint, he gets easy points. Now, if only Artest would actually be more consistent in exhibiting said skills, Barnes’ absence won’t be completely detrimental to the Lakers.

For Ron-Ron, there’s no time like the present to give the team a reason to acknowledge him.

Next: Ron Artest picks up his game, others must follow suit.

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