It has been nearly one year since the Trevor Ariza contract saga played out with the Lakers opting to sign former Defensive Player of the Year, Ron Artest instead.
While the Lakers’ decision to let go of the player who had played such a pivotal role during the franchise’s 15th title run was initially met with mixed feelings, the approving contingent looked 11 months into the future to potential matchups with either the Cavaliers or the upcoming Finals opponent, the Boston Celtics to legitimize the move.
To all the skeptics of Ron Artest, it is this exact scenario that the Lakers anticipated in pulling the trigger on the acquisition. Would you rather have Ariza on Paul Pierce? I for one must bluntly say, absolutely not.
In this year’s postseason, Pierce is averaging 19.1 ppg on 43% shooting from the field. His numbers may be a few paces behind his usual averages, but we all know what his presence on the floor entails at all times. He has few deficiencies in his offensive game, having the ability to shoot from deep, go mid-range and even drive it to the cup. We may all despise Paul Pierce as Laker fans, but it’s hard to ignore the offensive threat he poses – not to mention his tendency to hit big shots in crunch time. Don’t forget as well that he had a massive hand in holding the Mamba down during the ’08 Finals.
What’s just as undeniable however, is Ron’s defensive impact on Pierce. In the Lakers’ first meeting with the Celtics this season, Artest held Pierce to 15 points on 4 of 11 shooting and forced four turnovers, one of which if you recall, was a crucial offensive foul call in the waning moments of a tightly contested game. The most important thing? We won, albeit by an incredible game winner from Kobe with seven ticks to play.
When the Celtics traveled to Staples Center less than two weeks later, Ron Ron once again hampered Pierce’s offense by holding the Boston captain to a mere 11 points on 4 of 9 from the field. While the Lakers lost by one, our captain, Kobe Bryant, was receiving treatment for a sore ankle and did not participate – quite the disadvantage, wouldn’t you say?
There’s not a single reason to believe that Ron can’t build on his efforts from the regular season during the NBA Finals. Winning this championship against the C’s means just as much to Artest, granted for reasons far different than the ones that the remaining Lakers from 2008 are holding in their hearts.
While I’m not going to say that it’s guaranteed for Ron to completely shut down Pierce, at the very least, Kobe will not have to expend a ton of energy guarding the Celtics’ leading scorer. He can now remain considerably fresher at the end of games and this series will surely be hotly contested throughout.
NEXT: Lock in on D