Ron Artest, Trevor Ariza: Did the L.A. Lakers Make the Wrong Decision in 2009?

I'm not much of a betting man but if someone asked me what the odds were of Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest returning to the team next season, I would probably guess they were slim to none.

After helping the Lakers win an NBA championship in 2010, Artest regressed tremendously in his second season with the franchise, and he likely sealed his fate with a dis-spirited and uninspiring performance in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

The 2010-11 regular season may have provided the hand-writing on the wall that Artest's time with the Lakers had run out considering that he averaged career lows in points scored and rebounds, and his 29.4 minutes per game ranked as the second-lowest during Artest's NBA tenure.

Still, Artest's dip in statistical production could probably be forgiven if he was still capable of playing defense at a very high level, but unfortunately the one aspect of his game that made Artest truly special is fading.

Quickness has never been one of Artest's strengths but he has excelled on the defensive end with his size, power, sneaky hands and an ability to stick on his opponent like glue.

But opposing teams have figured out that the best way to attack Artest is by consistently moving away from him and avoiding stationary moments on the court.

Or in the case of New Orleans Hornets forward Trevor Ariza who torched Artest in the first round of this season's playoffs, simply nullify Artest's defense by running him into the ground in transition.

Ariza' energy and athleticism made Artest look very old in that series, which makes me wonder if Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak should have played chicken a little longer with Ariza and his agent in the summer of 2009.

Ariza played a key role in helping the Lakers clinch the 2009 title and his high energy style of play added a dimension the Lakers sure could have used against the Dallas Mavericks.

But Kupchak was...

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