Reporting from Philadelphia — Broderick Turner covers the Lakers for The Times. Readers' questions about the Lakers will be answered every week.
Question: I think the Lakers are in big trouble. Like other Lakers fans, I was very happy when the Lakers got Ron Artest. I thought about his toughness, being able to play multiple positions, and how his defense was very effective on everybody except Kobe [Bryant]. But I also thought about the bad. Artest is not a great set shooter, he does not take good shots and he is big, but not very quick. What I am wondering is, do you think the Lakers miss Trevor Ariza?Nothing against Artest; he is a great player, but Trevor Ariza was a better fit. I believe the Lakers miss his defense, three-point shooting, and his overall ability to have a nose for the ball.
Answer: Artest hasn't had a good season. Not sure why. Some of his critics point to all his social media networking, saying Ron-Ron has gone Hollywood. Scouts say he has lost a little on defense and that he doesn't intimidate players anymore. Even Lakers Coach Phil Jackson noted that Artest still is trying to find his way in the offense.
Artest and Ariza are different players. Artest is bigger and stronger, but Ariza is quicker and sleeker. Yes, the Lakers do miss some of what Ariza did, like his hustle, his diving on the floor for loose balls, his unselfish play.
But if you look at both of their numbers -- and stats don't tell the entire story -- it is interesting.
Artest averages 11.1 points, Ariza 15.5, a career-high.
Artest averages 33.1 minutes, shoots 41.4% from the field, 38.6% from three-point range, collects 4.7 rebounds, hands out 3.3 assists and gets 1.02 steals.
Ariza, in his first season with the Rockets, averages 38.1 minutes, shoots 37.8% from the field, 29.9% from three-point range, gets 5.6 rebounds, hands out 3.6 assists and gets 1.7 steals.
(Note: Ariza shot 46% with the Lakers last season, 31.9% from three-point range, but he made 49.7% of his shots in the playoffs, 47.6% of his three-pointers. Having Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol draw double teams helped Ariza get open looks. He doesn't have that in Houston like Ron does in L.A.)
Q: It seems like shooting in the low 30% is now a common thing for Kobe Bryant. I know a lot of people talk about the failures of the Lakers' big men and their "soft" game gets criticized a lot, e.g. Cleveland yet again, but Kobe shot badly, especially in the fourth quarter (one-for-six?), while LeBron [James] was five-for-seven. That must be hurting the Lakers as much as other things. Aren't they better off having Bryant do the surgery [on his finger], get some much-needed rest, and come back fresh and sharp, even if it means not having home-court advantage in the playoffs? It may also force other players to start taking some more responsibilities.
A: Wow! The Lakers do have fans all around the world. Man, what time is it when you watch basketball games, especially the Lakers? I don't know if I'd stay up that late -- or it could be early mornings -- to watch a sporting event. And apparently you are watching enough to know a lot about the Lakers.
Anyway, no, Kobe will not sit out and have surgery. No way, no how.
But what is interesting is Bryant's play in the last six games.
Against Orlando, Cleveland and New York, he shot a combined 24-for-72, 32.4%. Ouch!
In the next three games against Toronto, Washington and Indiana, he shot a combined 29-for-54, 53.7%. Now that's more like it.
His highest shot total during that span was 24. He shot just 15 times in back-to-back games against the Wizards and Pacers. He had nine assists against the Raptors, eight against the Wizards and seven against the Pacers.
Are you sensing a pattern here?
Seems like when Bryant shoots less, he has a higher shooting percentage and he gets more assists.
Good luck over there in Dubai.
Q: So you don't like us picking on little Sasha [Vujacic]? Well, then, here's another one.
Do you think if [Lakers General Manager] Mitch [Kupchak] had a crystal ball that showed him how Sasha would play after signing him, he would've signed Ronny [Turiaf] instead?
El Paso, Texas
A: Get OFF Sasha, will you?
He's trying to be a good teammate. Just ask him.
Yeah, I'm sure the Lakers regret overplaying him. But, hey, that's the business of basketball.
Readers can send their questions to our Lakers beat reporters, but please put "Q&A" in the subject field.