Friday, August 01, 2008

Ron Artest

On August 14, the Rockets and the Sacramento Kings will pull the trigger on a major trade. Since the Rockets' first round draft choice this year, Donte Greene, is included in the trade, it cannot be consummated until one month after he was signed. But according to league sources, the deal is done. The Rockets will get Ron Artest and maybe other minor players as needed to make the numbers match. The Kings will get Greene, backup point guard Bobby Jackson, a first round draft choice next year and a million dollars.

On paper, the trade makes perfect sense for the Rockets. Bobby Jackson is getting long in the tooth. Donte Greene spent only one year in college and would not have been a factor in the Rockets rotation in the near future anyway, if ever. With Ron Artest added to an already good team, the Rockets will be drafting at the very end of the first round next year. Good players are few and far between at that point. And the million dollars? Who cares? That's Les's money, not mine. So on paper, there is very little risk involved for the Rockets.

In the real world, There are numerous risks. Ron Artest has been a felony looking for a place to happen his whole career. He has been suspended 10 times, once for a full season. The odds of him pitching another fit and disrupting an otherwise happy locker room are better than even money. Equally important, this team has in the past given a great deal of weight to character. This is a giant step in the other direction. There will be at least some fan backlash for "selling out" morality for a championship. I've already heard, "If Hitler could play basketball, would you sign him?" I know, stupid analogy. Hitler was too short and terminally white. But when you get down to it, the concept is the same. It's just a matter of degree.

On the plus side, Ron Artest is an outstanding player. He has the talent and determination to succeed on the court. He is a lock-down defender and can score when called upon. He will make the Rockets a much better team - yes, even a championship quality team.

Was it a good trade? If asked beforehand, I would have advised against it. I believe that one should always look at the quality of the complete person, not just the talent on the court. As the old saying goes, adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it.

Now that it's a done deal and my beloved Rockets have another all-star, I am inclined to be a bit more pragmatic. After all, Artest is not a hardened criminal, just a hot-head. As a business owner, if someone with past mistakes on his record applied to me for a job, I would hope I could see beyond those mistakes and at least consider giving that person a second chance. So here it is, Ron. You start with me with a clean slate. If you show respect for the fans coaches and other players and keep your nose clean off the court, I'll root for you and give you all the credit you earn. Good luck.

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