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July 31, 2008

Artest Blasts Off

Ron Artest is heading to Houston in a proposed trade with Sacramento that hasn’t been finalized at the moment.  The trade reportedly sends Artest to Houston for Bobby Jackson, Donte Greene, and a future first round pick.  Some rumors have Sacramento adding additional pieces in the deal, but we won’t know until the deal is done.  One reason it isn’t done is because of Greene’s recent signing with Houston.   A player cannot be dealt until 30 days after he signs with a team, and that means this deal can be done August 14th.

Here’s the breakdown from Sacramento’s viewpoint:

Ron Artest has been a headache ever since coach Rick Adelman got the boot.  Recently, he expressed regret over his decision to stay, and he isn’t in the future plans for the Kings.  Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs in the last two seasons, and they are clearly trying to rebuild, and Ron’s antics have been nothing but disruptive.   The Kings have been shopping Artest since last season, when they were trying to make a deal up to the trade deadline.   Rumors about a trade with LA and Denver didn’t pan out.  This season, more rumors about LA surfaced, but they reportedly didn’t want to send Odom and take on Artest and Kenny Thomas.  Houston, with coach Rick Adelman, was probably the only team who was willing to make a deal that interested Sacramento.

Artest is in the last year of his deal that pays him about $8.5 million.   Bobby Jackson, a local fan favorite from his previous tenure in Sacramento, is also in the last year of his deal worth a little over $6 million. Bobby is essentially the primary financial filler, because this deal is really about forward Donte Greene and the future pick.  Greene, a 6′10” 220lb forward, adds some youth and athleticism to Sacramento’s frontline that includes last year’s lottery pick Spencer Hawes, and this year’s first round pick Jason Thompson.

The departure of Ron Artest will help team chemistry on the court for the Kings, especially in the case of forward John Salmons.  Salmons filled in for Artest in the starting lineup last season during Artest’s suspension period, and was the team’s best player during that time.   He showed promise at the beginning of the season but that all changed when Artest returned and took over the starting spot.   Salmons complained about returning to the bench, and wasn’t able to bring that level of play in the second unit on a consistent basis for the rest of the season.   Hopefully, Salmons might show that level of play again if he can gain that starting spot and some confidence once again.

As for the Rockets, this move is two fold: it adds that additional player who can score and make things happen on both ends of the court, and it’s a short term move to win now because I don’t know how long the Rockets are going to keep up the Yao/McGrady experiment.

Team chemistry is something that isn’t just a factor for Sacramento.  Yao Ming also has some concerns:

“When I text messaged with Luis, we talked about team chemistry. That’s only what worries us.

“We worry about the new attitude to the team. We are adding talent to the team and we need that, but building team chemistry is important. This is not bad. I don’t mean he is not welcome to Houston. But a new player always needs some time.

“Also, he was the biggest part of a team in Sacramento. He was a star player. We need more chemistry and more communication.”

I think after their playoff loss to the Jazz, Houston felt they needed another player who could step up and impact the game if (or when) injuries hit Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady.   With Yao and Alston both missing playoff games due to injury, the Rockets, specifically McGrady, struggled offensively and really had to carry a large load.  Offensive options were thinning against Utah, and the team needed another player to step up. The Rockets may think Ron can be that player.  Last season, he was second in scoring on the Kings, averaging 20.5 PPG, 5.8 REB, and 3.5 AST.

With the Rockets having yet to make it past the first round of the playoffs with stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, it’s hard to believe the team won’t pick a direction with one of those players in the near future, and the outcome of next season might be vital to that decision.

Overall, I think it was a good deal for both sides.  The Kings are rebuilding, and needed to dump Artest and his antics, and get an expiring contract, a young prospect, and a future first round pick to help the rebuilding process.   Looking at the short term, the Rockets dump an aging guard, a young prospect, and a future pick for one of the best two-way players in the game.   Artest is a headcase, but he has a good relationship with Rick Adelman which may help him keep his act together.   Now Houston fans are hoping Artest can help propel the Rockets past the first round.

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