Each offseason, every NBA team tries to improve. Some teams undergo dramatic makeovers like the Nets did last summer after trading Vince Carter. Others, and most championship contenders, make significant moves that are designed to push a team “over the top” or strengthen their hold. After winning the title, the Lakers signed Ron Artest to help them stay on top, and the Celtics signed Rasheed Wallace to help them get back to the top. We look at how both moves have panned out:
RASHEED TO BOSTON
Wallace to the Celtics was celebrated as a big move for the team. With Kevin Garnett‘s body starting to betray him, Wallace was seen as a guy who could start some games, provide parking lot range, and great toughness/interior defense. He has somewhat lived up to that expectation in the playoffs, but was a huge disappointment in the regular season – as Austin Burton pointed out in his article on UNC. In the regular season, Rasheed looked lazy at best and disinterested at worst on the court. He wouldn’t box out his man, or he’d hoist up bad shots as his 28.3% three point shooting indicates. Wallace’s attitude was largely believed to have had an influence on the general attitude of the Celtics team as a whole, and his impact was seen as pretty negative. As I said above, the playoffs have offered some salvation to Wallace and the Celtics, in what has otherwise been a big disapointment for both sides.
ARTEST TO L.A.
In what essentially amounted to a trade, the Lakers signed Artest away from the Rockets while Houston signed Trevor Ariza. Artest was seen as a more talented (perhaps mercurial) player than Ariza, and his first year with the Lakers hasn’t done anything to disprove that. Artest’s defense has been superb as it always has been, but his offense and shot selection (like Rasheed’s) have been questionable. He shot only 41.4 percent from the field, and his unique habits look like they’ve impacted the players on the Lakers, as throughout the season they were criticized for not giving it their all every night. Like Wallace though, Artest’s signing has paid off in the playoffs, where it was supposed to have the most impact, as he hit the game-winner in Game 5 against the Suns and scored 25 points in the clinching victory.
Both of these guys were brought in for the playoffs – and they’ve delivered en route to the NBA Finals. The Celtics and Lakers knew they had the talent to essentially cruise through the regular season and land a top-4 seed in their conference, so the fact that these teams did essentially go through the motions at times during the season could have been semi-expected. Wallace and Artest have both been playing their best basketball of the season when it matters most, so in that sense both players have done what they were signed to do. Even if they were paid too much to do it.
What do you think? Who will be more clutch in the Finals?
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