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Thursday, May 5, 2011
Impact of Artest's suspension

By Andy Kamenetzky

In news that didn't require Nostradmus' services to predict, Ron Artest has officially been suspended for Friday's Game 3 in Dallas. The offending sequence, which took place with 24.4 seconds remaining in the game, featured Artest swinging his arm to basically clothesline Jose Barea. The unprompted, absolutely intentional act was so WWE, Ron might as well have borrowed Jack Nicholson's courtside chair for the purposes of bashing the diminutive guard. So inevitable was this outcome, Phil Jackson didn't even attempt to spin the possibility of Artest going unpunished in his postgame presser.

So what does this mean for the Lakers in Game 3? Well, in a nutshell, it ain't good.

The already daunting prospect of escaping an 0-2 hole just turned even more difficult. Yes, Ron is coming off a terrible Game 1 and a solid-but-unspectacular Game 2. And yes, Ron doesn't have a true defensive assignment in this series, plus his attempt at physicality to slow Dirk Nowtizki didn't have the effect some (myself included) predicted. But all in all, Artest has played well in the postseason and the Lakers can't afford in their current situation to be down a key player.

Especially with the options in Ron's place hardly tantalizing.

I'm guessing Phil will start Matt Barnes at small forward, but I don't think it's out of the question he'd dust off Luke Walton for the first time in the playoffs purely to keep the rotation intact as possible. (Don't kill the messenger, people!) Either way, the former has been ineffective since returning from knee surgery and the latter has strung together maybe 20 minutes of quality basketball this entire season, so the prospect of extended PT for either doesn't inspire overflowing confidence.

There's also the possibility Kobe Bryant will seem more time at the 3, but to a large degree, that approach is dependent on either Steve Blake or Shannon Brown playing well enough to keep Bryant out of the backcourt. Thus far, neither is doing his part.

One twist I don't see coming, to address a question popping up in today's chat and throughout the season, is Lamar Odom replacing his long-time friend in the first five. LO, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have barely played together over the course of four seasons, and in extremely small sample sizes, the results have been horrible. Plus, the Lakers are extremely out of sorts at the moment, making it hard to believe such a big adjustment could be handled on the fly. Jackson's unconventional nature leaves the door open, but I'd be very surprised if he made such a radical move.

In any event, the margins for error in Game 3 just went from "microscopic" to whatever is the next size down. Everyone who removes his warmups must seriously step up his game in order to avoid an 0-3 deficit come Mother's Day.

And finally, the worst part of this development? You just know Mark Cuban is grinning like a Cheshire cat.