NBA Finals 2010: Ron Artest Needs To Play Big in L.A.

Many felt the Los Angeles Lakers acquisition of Ron Artest last summer only improved their championship roster.

Artest was perceived by many as a significant upgrade, both defensively and offensively, over the guy he was essentially swapped for, Trevor Ariza, who landed in Houston.

Five games into the NBA Finals, that myth has been debunked.

Instead, Artest has been downright awful against Boston and is a major reason why the Lakers head back to Hollywood facing a 3-2 deficit.

With Artest, it all starts with defense, and defensively, he's been a huge disappointment.

For the most part part he has struggled in his match-up with Paul Pierce, who has had an MVP-like performance up to this point in the series. Pierce had his way with Artest in Games 4 and 5, going off for 46 points on 19-33 from the field.

Now obviously not all those points were scored against Artest, but it sure seemed like most of them were, and the fact of the matter is, Pierce has decisively gotten the best of a guy that was brought in to be a shutdown, perimeter defender.

The truth is (pun intended), Artest really isn't a premier, on-ball defender anymore, and he hasn't been for a couple years. Those days are gone.

Through isolations and off the pick and roll, Pierce has exploited the vulnerabilities in the 2010 version of Artest. Pierce has been able to keep Artest on his heels and has shown the ability the past two games to get exactly where he wants to be on the floor in order to execute his step-back jumper, which has been on.

In fact, it got so bad in Game 5 that Kobe Bryant asked to guard Pierce, which speaks volumes about Artest's current abilities as a defender and perhaps the move as a whole.

The simple fact is that Artest is not the great defender anymore who can shut down a player of Pierce's caliber for an entire series. Don't get me wrong, he still brings a lot ...

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