The Benching

This break from the hardwood is a relief, as I am a chicken and my head has been removed, and we have plenty of talk about based on the events of the weekend. While Monday was spent basking in the glow of the "Shock & Hawes" game, it's time to discuss Ron Artest. More directly, it is time to discuss the lack of Ron Artest in the fourth quarter Sunday.

To review:

[Artest] watched from the Kings' bench during the entire fourth quarter at Staples Center on Sunday night, sitting not because of reported health issues this time but because coach Reggie Theus decided to "go with the guys who ... are in the best rhythm."

From the cheap seats, we can look at the benching in one of two ways.
  1. Theus is being honest: He didn't feel like Ron was in a good flow. Artest had shot 6-14, had more turnovers than assists, and rarely shot closer than 17 feet away. Clearly, on offense, Bad Ron had suited up. But his defense was between good and real good; he had four steals and was chatty and active. In a game where a few stops would make a world of difference, you'd sacrifice a couple bad FGAs for Ron's fourth-quarter defense.
  2. Theus saw something in Ron's theatrics he didn't like. Remember Utah? Ron reacted to the crowds cat-calls and went a little ballistic. It was the undoing of the team. The offense sputtered as Ron made himself the focus; the defense wilted as Ron became more concerned with making a scene than making a play. Sunday night in L.A., it began again. Ron hit the floor upon drawing a charge; he wriggled around like a 4-year-old on Pixie Stix and pop. He was edging towards being demonstrative, and Demonstrative Ron earns technical fouls and lashes out by taking setback 23-footers.
I bet the benching involved some combination of both -- clearly, Francisco Garcia's shooting opened the floor for Kevin Martin (in theory) and Beno Udrih (in practice); he also showed good chemistry with Hawes and played terrific defense. But one other factor plays into our theory...

When Garcia fouled out, John Salmons -- not Artest -- came in the game.

Salmons had been no great shakes on either end. We knew Kobe Bryant'd have the ball; Artest seems more apt to deal with such a scenario (in theory). But Theus called on Salmons.

I'll introduce a third theory, one based in nothing more than theory: Theus was pissed about Artest's absence from the Clippers and Wolves games, pissed the Kings lost both, and wanted to put Ron in his place.

You know what? It doesn't matter which theory is the right one. All show good judgment from Theus. Whether he made the decision based on basketball or based on the team dynamic, it was the right decision. Vastly encouraging.

(Also encouraging: The decision to put Brad Miller back in the game for the last offensive possession. Miller might be the most important King on offense, in terms of improving everyone else. And getting the ball to Udrih in the right place certainly helped. Two wins for Theus!)

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