So reports Lakers.com's Mike Trudell, who says Ron Artest completed ten minutes of walking on a treadmill this afternoon, but remains prone to dizziness. Artest, for the benefit of Lakers fans who follow the team from under the rock they call "home," has been sidelined ever since sustaining a Christmas Day concussion after a tumble on his stairs. (You can watch RA address the media during halftime of yesterday's 124-118 win over the Warriors). As we speak, he hasn't been cleared to play this Friday against Sacramento, nor is there any hint in Trudell's report about the likelihood of availability.
Look, I'm no doctor. I didn't take a single class as a pre-med student before switching my major to "blogging." Frankly, I was pretty terrible at high school science, which makes me anything but a reliable opinion when it comes to the human body, so my thoughts should be taken with an entire lick of salt. However, my gut feeling tells me if Ron Ron is experiencing issues after a stroll on a treadmill, 36 hours isn't likely enough time for a recovery suitable for action. Maybe I'm wrong, and I hope I am. But between those details, the often dicey nature of concussions, and the necessary cautiousness in treating them, I just don't have a good feeling about this.
What I'm absolutely certain about, however, is that the Lakers miss Artest. A lot.
On the season, the Lakers have surrendered 97 ppg (NBA-11th), limited the opposition to 43.3 percent from the field (just three-tenths of a percentage point behind Cleveland for best overall), and owned the league's best clip defending the three point line, a paltry 30.7 percent.
Now check out the numbers in the three games Artest missed:
Golden State: 118 points allowed, 48.3 percent from the field, 36.4% from behind the arc, and one 35-point quarter. (Yes, it's Golden State, and they score a lot, but the Lakers also held them to 97 earlier this season in the Bay Area, so either result is possible.)
Phoenix: 112 points allowed, 48.9 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from behind the arc. (And yes, Phoenix scores even more than Golden State. But the Lakers held them once to a lousy 88 points and below their average in two previous meetings, so again, either result is possible.)
Sacramento: 103 points surrendered, in double OT, with Sacto being held to 40 percent from the field and 24% from behind the arc. For certain, the Lakers' best defensive effort sans Artest. However, if two extra bonus periods are needed to drop a team sitting below .500, albeit one that's played like a winner at home, it's indicative of the uphill battle awaiting the Lakers without Ron Ron's services.
It's not just on the lockdown side where his absence is felt, by the way. The Lakers are an ineffective outside shooting team at full strength, so they can hardly afford to lose the guy hitting three's more proficiently than any member of the rotation. (Phil Jackson noted yesterday how the forward spreads the floor and forces the opposition to guard him.) Throw in Ron's willingness to keep the ball moving, eagerness to box out and general intensity and it's no shock that his +/- numbers are off the charts. The Lakers' best player is undoubtedly Kobe Bryant. Pau Gasol arguably affects the on-court dynamic more than anybody on the roster. Lamar Odom is often referred to as the "X-Factor." Derek Fisher is the clutchest dude not nicknamed "Mamba." And Artest provides a distinctive energy, often at a game-changing level.
Need an example? Think back to the debacle against Cleveland. Sure, Artest fouled out and didn't have quite the impact guarding LeBron James as hoped. But during the Lakers' strongest period, a 12-2 second quarter run that incorrectly appeared the sign of a comeback in the works, guess who was in the thick of everything good? That's right. Ron Artest. Six points. A steal. Two fouls drawn. An energy that brought the crowd to its feet before the eventual disappointment. Like many a bulls in china shops, this injured player can be a force. And the Lakers are in dire need of a goosing at the moment. It's hard to believe these matters are entirely unrelated.