By Marcus Henry
The media and fan reaction to the idea of Ron Artest coming to the Knicks has been mixed. He’s a problem child who has had his share of on and off-the-court troubles. But has that ever stopped a team before; of course not. A player of Artest’s ability doesn’t come around very often. He’s turned himself into a versatile offensive player and he absolutely LOVES to play defense. Now that is a rarity. He can guard three positions and can even defend power forwards in a pinch. If this isn’t what the Knicks need, I don’t know what is. Knick fans need to be honest with themselves. The team hasn’t had a quality three since the days of Bernard King.
Anthony Mason and Latrell Sprewell manned the position for a while. But both players were playing out of position. Mason was a power forward masquerading as a three, while Sprewell was forced to play the position because Allan Houston had dibs on the two-guard spot.
There are several reasons why the Knicks need to do everything they can to get Artest. His talent, as stated earlier, is undeniable. He averaged 18.8 points, 6.5 points and 3.4 assists per game last season. His versatility on defense (2.1 steals per game) is a plus as the Knicks don’t have a three on the roster who excels on both sides of the ball. In fact, I don’t know of a team in the league that has a small forward who can drop 30 on any given night and stop the opposing team’s best wing player.
Quentin Richardson has turned himself into a productive player, but at 6-5 he can be exploited at small forward. Jared Jeffries, for all the talk about his defense, has no real offense and is nowhere near worth the $30 million the Knicks will end up paying him.
Another reason for the Knicks to grab Artest is his favorable contract scenario. Artest is set to make $7.8 million in 2007-08 and can opt out at the end of the year. A package of Malik Rose (who will make $7.1 million next year on a deal that expires after the 08-09 season) and David Lee ($990,600) might be enough to satisfy the Kings, who are supposedly looking to clean house. The problem is Isiah Thomas isn’t willing to deal Lee. As productive as Lee is, Artest is better. Artest is a better scorer, better defender and the better passer. And his willingness to play defense could rub off on the rest of the team.
For Knicks fans who still need convincing Artest should be acquired, don’t forget the team took a chance on Sprewell. And look how that turned out. The Knicks made a trip to the NBA finals in 1999.
A front court of Eddie Curry, Zach Randolph and Artest could instantly make the Knicks a playoff team. But in sports there is often times great risk before the reward.