Warriors Better Without Artest
by Glenn Dickey
Jan 26, 2006

GETTING RON ARTEST may make the Sacramento Kings more serious contenders for a Western Conference playoff berth, but it would have been far worse for the Warriors if Artest had come to Oakland.

Frankly, I’m not sure how serious the Warriors were about trading for Artest. So much of what goes on these days is no more than media speculation, and this was a hot topic.Certainly, Chris Mullin never said anything about a possible trade.

What happens in these circumstances, with everybody in competition for the story, is that reporters start with a fact – Artest wants to be traded – and then look at teams which could use him and who they might be willing to give up. From that comes the story: Warriors are trying to trade Troy Murphy and Mickael Pietrus (one version I saw) for Artest.

One reason I doubt that version is that I know Mullin values Pietrus highly, as he should, and, though we’ve never discussed this, I believe he’d agree with my reasoning about acquiring a problem player like Artest.

Basically, I believe there have to be two conditions met when a team picks up a player like this:

--You must have a stable team atmosphere, so the player cannot disrupt it. A recent example would be the A’s picking up Milton Bradley. The A’s clubhouse is stable – some would say nearly comatose – so Bradley won’t change that. There won’t be anybody who will get in his face, as the notoriously antagonistic Jeff Kent did with the Dodgers. That doesn’t guarantee Bradley won’t go off on his own at some point, but it won’t cause the team to go down in flames.

The Warriors don’t have that kind of team. This is a team with a very fragile team psyche, which evidences itself in the uneven play, from game to game and, often, from quarter to quarter. There is little leadership. Baron Davis supposedly was going to supply it, but Davis has his mood swings and there are times when he and coach Mike Montgomery are not on the same page.

Inserting Artest into that environment would have been inflammatory.

--The team has to be solid enough that the player added is not vital to the team’s success but simply another part of the puzzle, albeit important.

Again, Bradley is an example. If he has a good season, the A’s will be a stronger team and in good position to make the World Series. But if he implodes, the A’s will still be a solid team.

But, the only reason for the Warriors to trade for Artest would have been because they thought he would make them a playoff team. Certainly, he has the skills to do that, but if he had imploded, he would have taken the team down with him and seriously impacted their future.

He wasn’t worth the gamble.

THE TRADE possibility has probably affected the Warriors play, as it is. No matter how often athletes say they disregard trade talk and just play their game, it’s humanly impossible to do that.

So, now the air has been cleared, and they can get on with the season. It’s clear enough what they have to do, but not as certain that they will do it.

Obviously, Davis and Montgomery have to communicate better. Both men say they have no philosophical differences, and I believe them, but the issue arose after the Warriors’ Monday night loss to the Clippers. Montgomery wanted Davis to take a shot early in the time clock, when the game clock was only one second more than the time clock, but Davis ran the clock down for a final aborted shot attempt. Montgomery has no problems making his point with a player, so I have to believe Davis misunderstood, whether deliberately or not.

We’re getting a more complete picture of Davis this season, and it’s not quite the rosy one we saw when he came over late last season. At that point, he was eager to prove he could still be a big-time player, after the questions that were raised about his attitude in New Orleans. This season, he’s been more erratic, brilliant at times but also out of control, taking too many three-point shots early in the clock. At his best, Davis makes everybody around him better, dishing off the ball for easy baskets for teammates, driving to the hoop himself. He needs to return to that type of play.

Meanwhile, his teammates must play with more consistency and more effort. They know they have to move the ball well to get the most out of their offense. Without any serious offensive presence in the middle, they can’t rely on standard plays but must use their athleticism to create opportunities. Too often now, they hit periods where they just stagnate. They can't afford that.

The NBA is a players’ game. I’ve had readers suggest that Montgomery isn’t strong enough, but that’s a misreading of the situation. At Stanford, Montgomery was a very strong presence, as is often true of collegiate coaches. Everything is in the coach’s favor in college ball, from the fact that players are there on scholarship and under his control to the fact that there is much more practice time to put in a system. In the NBA, it’s players who are in control. They’re making so much money, they’re independent. If they don’t want to play hard, there’s nothing any coach can do about it.

As NBA teams go, the Warriors are probably among the least temperamental. I don’t think they’re defying Montgomery – but I do think they all need to look in the mirror and admit they can do better.

IT MAY BE that we’ll have to wait still another year for the Warriors to make the playoffs, until Ike Diogu and Andris Biedrins have enough experience to become starters at power forward and center, which would give them the inside scoring they need (from Diogu) and a stronger defense overall inside, and for Pietrus to become the all-round force he should be.

But whatever happens, be thankful Artest isn’t here. He’s an explosion just waiting to happen, and the wreckage could have slowed the Warriors progress for years.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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