I promised I wouldn't cry.
There are myriad reasons this is a good trade for the Kings. Yes -- it's a good trade for Houston, Ron-Ron himself, Tracy McGrady, Jonathan Feigen and others. But this is a Kings blog, not a Jonathan Feigen blog, so let's stay on topic, OK? Sheesh.
Ron Artest, a talented talent with real talent, was not built to play for a rebuilding team. All the fantastic traits Ron-Ron embodies on the hardwood -- toughness, passion, shrill desire, the constant choreographed flailing -- mean the most to a winning squad. At no time was this truth, or Ron-Ron's talents, more apparent than in late 2006 when the dark, brooding, slightly frightening Kings took the galaxy by storm and gave the defending champs a fight. Despite being out of shape after a long layoff, Ron-Ron was near perfect from February to May. With Bonzi, a budding Kevin Martin, a raw Francisco Garcia, an Adonis-like pairing of Kenny Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and those old farm hands Mike Bibby and Brad Miller, the Kings made a stunning effort. That team will not soon be forgotten in Sacramento, and Ron-Ron was without doubt the motor. The irrational, belligerent, zany motor.
These Kings aren't in that position any more. A little crazy in the eyes no longer helps the cause. This is a really young team at its core, with John Salmons and Francisco Garcia as the elder statesmen of the near future. Youth and malleability are connected, no matter how strong of will Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson come off in the press. When you're new to something -- as Hawes, Thompson, Bobby Brown, and Sean Singletary are to the NBA -- you pay attention to what happens around you. In the locker room, on the plane, at the club, before warm-ups, in front of the media. When you're getting comfortable in something so foreign as the NBA, you get certain behaviors, certain social orders ingrained in your skull. You become, to some extent, a product of your environment.
Watching Ron-Ron mouth off, skip games with no notice, scream at his point guard to "get him the f---ing ball," complain about his contract, throw Mama Maloof under the bus, throw his teammates under the bus ... I'm not saying those things are going to turn Jason Thompson into a bad man. But they have an effect, however subtle. They weaken the franchise's authority, they weaken the team's chemistry (however immeasurable and mythical the concept might be). Ron-Ron repeatedly demeaned Reggie Theus this season. Coach may be a blowhard at times, but he ain't no dummy. He knew he had to avoid confrontation to survive. (And what do you know? He did.)
The Kings will do more than just survive -- they will thrive without Ron-Ron. It's not a knock on him -- he will do wonders for Houston's spring confidence, no doubt. But the Kings are in a place where creating the right learning environment for these wide-eyed does in much more important than two steals or five assists from an unfocused, unhappy Ron-Ron. And this all neglects the real on-court positivity an Artest subtraction offers. Salmons becomes a hero, Martin becomes a 28-ppg scorer, Mikki Moore gets dibs on all in-game screamery. Plus, Bobby Jackson in the locker room is the polar opposite of Ron Artest in the locker room. Wins for everybody.
Donte Greene, sons. Respect the extra 'e'!