So yeah, Ron Artest is finally an ex-Pacer. The Maloof brothers, owners of the Sacramento Kings and several Las Vegas establishments, rolled the dice and swapped disgruntled (and soon-to-be free agent) sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic to the Pacers for the All-Star forward who hasn't played since December. It's been a rough month for the Pacers thus far—to add injury to insult, Jermaine O'Neal suffered a groin injury that will have him out for a minimum of eight weeks. This does not bode well for a Pacer championship.
As for the Kings, they needed to do something as well. Their defense was weak, their record atrocious, and ever since the trade of Chris Webber and the departure of Vlade Divac, things just haven't been the same. If Artest manages to stay sane, he should provide an element of toughness that hasn't been seen since the days of, God, Brian Grant? He'll be their best defender since Doug Christie, and probably their number-one option on offense (although Mike Bibby has been on fire lately). You would think if things don't turn around—or if Artest and Bonzi Wells immediately embark on a tri-state killing spree—Rick Adelman won't last too much longer. I suppose it's for the best the Kings have Brad Miller, who played with Artest in both Chicago and Indiana. Hopefully they got along.
The Pacers just needed Artest to be gone so they could get on with their lives. It would have been nice to get more than Stojakovic, who's pretty far off form this year, but teamed with a healthy O'Neal, he could obviously be a lethal perimeter threat. The only question, of course, is whether they'll be able to retain his services past this season. With O'Neal out until late March at best, they won't have much time to see how well he fits before deciding whether to offer him a lucrative extension. If they do, you would have to assume Austin Croshere's days in Indy would finally be numbered (they always have been, but apparently the number was triple digits).
Then there was today's huge swap, which sent (among others) Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to the Timberwolves, and Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi to the Celtics. As Charles Barkley observed tonight on TNT, he doesn't see how this trade makes either team better. Taking that a step further, I can totally see this making both teams worse. Maybe KG will get along better with Ricky Davis than he did with Szczerbiak, but Blount has been every bit the underachiever that Olowokandi was this year. And Paul Pierce will absolutely hate Olowokandi, who is borderline useless. And will Szczerbiak be as good a second scorer as Davis?
It's a strange trade, because best I can tell both teams should be looking for the same thing: reliable veterans to surround their respective superstars (Pierce and Garnett) with so they can contend for a title—or, in Boston's case, at least a playoff spot. Exchanging your problems for another team's rarely works out. And I don't see this one working, either.