If the Lakers fail to repeat as champions, the first and most obvious culprit will be Ron Artest. To say he’s been struggling lately on the offensive end is an understatement. He’s been shooting an abysmal 30% from the field in the Finals, but that doesn’t even begin to explain his ineffectiveness on offense. Whether it’s his tendency to get lost in the triangle because he never knows where he needs to be or his inability to make free-throws in the clutch, all these shortcomings could be forgiven as long as he’s contributing on defense, his “forte.”
In Game 1 of the series, Ron’s plus/minus was an astounding +26, as the Lakers won the game by double-digits. However it’s been a tedious, uphill battle for the Lakers ever since. Ron Artest’s plus/minus in the next four games were as follows: 0, +1, -12, and 0. Although he didn’t have a negative plus/minus in the last game, his ill-advised decision when he attempted to block Rondo’s lay-up in the game’s final minute instead of sending him to the foul-line, further demonstrates Ron-Ron’s inability to be trusted to make sound judgments on the court.
After admirably defending his man in the beginning of the series, Paul Pierce has been markedly increasing his production with each successive game, which does not bode well for Artest, especially if he’s not making much of an impact on either end of the floor. While I don’t believe it’s fair to pin Ron Artest as the scapegoat, if the Lakers fall short of the championship, much of the onus is inevitably going to fall on him.
In a way, he’s sort of been the “anti-Ariza” in this series. Laker fans will remember all the open three point shots that Ariza made throughout the postseason and never forget his heady play at the end of games, particularly when he made two clutch, series-altering steals in the final minutes of last year’s Western Conference Finals against Denver. And I must admit that I am a fan of Ron Artest and I was ecstatic when we acquired him in the offseason. But you probably wouldn’t have thought that after reading my aforementioned comments about him. I can’t imagine how much ire he’s accumulating from Laker fans who were furious to see Trevor Ariza go.