What Do Ron Artest And Tiger Have In Common?
What do Ron Artest and Tiger Woods have in common today?
Neither is even close, or the equivalent of a long, par-five drive, to what he was in his prime.
At least Tiger might still get better. Artest almost assuredly won’t.
If you watched the Celtics’ 109-96 thrashing of the Lakers on Sunday, you saw, among other things, that the gentlemen in green are deeper, more balanced and energized and certainly play much better defense.
You also saw further evidence that Artest is no longer a prime-time player. He went 1-for-10 from the floor, which wouldn’t have been so bad if Paul Pierce hadn’t run rings around him at the other end of the court. Artest seems to have lost his quickness, his strength and just about any other skill he used to have.
Clearly, Phil Jackson has noticed. Or didn’t you realize Artest was missing for just about the entire the fourth quarter on Sunday?
The truth about the Lakers now is that they’re basically trying to play good teams 3-on-5. And that’s when Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are hustling and playing all out, which wasn’t the case in this game.
Artest and yes, sadly, Derek Fisher are simply no longer championship caliber starters. It pains those of us who have covered Fisher through the years to admit as much, because besides being a great team guy and clutch shooter, he was, and still is, one of the truly class acts in dealing with the media. But he’s been unable to cover quick guards for a couple of years now and it is only getting worse.
Artest actually had a disappointing season a year ago, but it was forgotten when he snapped awake with a huge effort in Game 7 against the Celtics in the Finals. Since then, however, his skills have deteriorated even further. A lot of us questioned giving up younger, more athletic Trevor Ariza and then signing Artest, and a year and a half later, it seems like a clear mistake.
Not only do you cringe each time Artest takes an outside shot, he gets lost on defense and his rebounding is no longer a factor.
You want to know the scary part? The previously skittery Artest is actually more together off the court now than he is on it. So why is he still getting big minutes? Jackson has to be asking himself that same question today. Look for Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown and, when he gets back, Matt Barnes to be playing more the second half of the season.
This particular Lakers-Celtics match proved to be your basic one-on-five mismatch, with only Kobe Bryant exhibiting the kind of intensity and aggressiveness necessary to compete with Boston. It wasn’t that Kobe wasn’t trying to get others involved. He was, but everyone else seemed, well, disinterested.
Gasol has reverted, at least temporarily, to the old soft Pau. And Bynum, for all his unique skills, has yet to prove he can play with a fire in his belly. I started to count how many times the big men failed to get downcourt on Boston fastbreaks, but I stopped after I reached double figures.
Turns out, those Lakers losses to bad teams weren’t so much a fluke as they were a warning sign. The two-time defending champs are older, slower and less motivated than they were a year ago, and that’s a bad combination.
As for Tiger, well, it isn’t a matter of his age. He should have plenty of good years ahead physically. But mentally, well, it is impossible to tell what that self-inflicted ordeal he went through last year has taken out of him.
He sure isn’t the same player right now. His swing is out of sync, his short game is inconsistent and whatever was left of his once famous swagger is gone.
He finished 44th in the field at Torrey Pines, and as difficult as it is to comprehend, that is about where he ranks among those on the PGA Tour at the moment.
So to get back to my original question: What do Artest and Tiger have in common.
The answer today, unfortunately, is plenty.
— STEVE BISHEFF