Its now time for him to show what he’s made of.
NBA.com: Good morning, Ron Artest. This is your mid-April wake-up call.
The playoffs are here, though Ron-Ron isn’t. In the literal sense, yes — he played and started 77 games and was second on the Lakers in total minutes, behind only Kobe Bryant. But the expected energy rush has mostly been missing. The constriction on defense has mostly been lacking.
And now here comes Kevin Durant.
It’s a first round of Bryant and the Lakers against Durant and the Thunder starting Sunday at Staples Center, and of Artest against history. Think the rumble in Auburn Hills, Mich., cemented his legacy? Try being known as the difference between a back-to-back and a flat-on-their-back.
That means Lakers management is also very much on the hook. They’re the ones that took a screwdriver to a proven fit last summer and essentially swapped 24-year-old Trevor Ariza for the 30-year-old Artest even after Ariza played a key role in the 2009 title. Ariza was allowed to leave as a free agent and sign with Houston, and Ariza took his place in Houston in a perfect bit of symmetry and easy comparison.
Welcome to the outcome. Artest had a letdown of a regular season, but the playoffs and the playoffs. Now here comes Durant — scoring champion, 6-feet-9 of perimeter game, post game, drawing fouls, putting the ball on the floor — as the first assignment in an immediate showdown that will go a long way to settling the Ariza-Artest debate.
Handle Durantula as well as can be expected, and Artest is money well spent and a hero. Get picked apart, and Staples Center will yearn for Ariza.