by Conrad Brunner
May 16, 2003
By the Numbers:
Second in the NBA in steals per game (2.3), first in steals per 48 minutes (3.29). … Averaged career highs of 15.5 points and 5.2 rebounds. … Averaged 16.5 points and shot 48.4 percent overall and 42 percent from the 3-point line in victories. … Averaged 13.7 points and shot 34.3 percent overall and 22.8 percent from the 3-point line in losses. … Averaged 16.4 points and 47.2 percent shooting (40.7 percent from the arc) at home, 14.5 points and 38.6 percent shooting (25.5 percent from the arc) on the road. … The more threes he attempted, the fewer he made. Averaged 2.7 attempts through the end of January and made 37.8 percent. In the final three months, he averaged 3.6 attempts and made 29 percent. … Team was 43-26 when he played, 5-8 in games he missed due to illness or disciplinary action.
Playoffs: Averaged 19.0 points and 5.8 rebounds but shot just 38.9 percent overall. … Led the team in 3-point attempts (31). … Limited Boston star Paul Pierce to 38.9 percent shooting for the series.
Plus-Minus: Led the team during the regular season at plus-339 (4.9 per game), but dropped to 11th in the playoffs at minus-31 (minus-5.2 per game).
Contract Status: Signed a reported 6-year, $42 million contract extension prior to the season that runs through 2008-09.
Quote: “What everybody saw this year was just a little touch of my game. Defensively, I'm always going to be there because I'm always guarding the best player. I can do way more, offensively, than what people saw. I'm just going to keep working and keep getting better and take it to a whole other level next year. And I've got to stay on that level. This year I was a little consistent up until the All-Star break. After that, I dropped off a little bit, then got my game back a little bit. I've just got to be more consistent and it's going to start with throwing all the unnecessary stuff out the window. The things that happened this year, the suspensions, those were distractions to me.”
Analysis: Few players have the ability to generate more disparate opinions. An intense, relentless defender, he was runner-up to Ben Wallace in Defensive Player of the Year balloting and was named to the second team in All-Defensive voting. Because he assumes his defense will be at a high level in every game, he tends to judge his performances based on offensive output. Though he is a capable scorer, his offensive game is incomplete. A respectable but inconsistent stand-still shooter, he can use his strength to get inside the defense and finish or draw fouls. It remains to be seen if brute force is ultimately his greatest ally or enemy. His inability to maintain control of his emotions had a disquieting effect on the season. On Dec. 31, the team was 23-8 and he had missed just one game, that due to a stomach ailment. But on Jan. 3 he had his infamous postgame tantrum after a loss in New York, drawing the first of five NBA suspensions totaling 11 games. He also missed one game due to a team decision. In a 39-game span, he missed 12 games due to temper-related disciplinary action and the team went 18-21. He led the league in flagrant foul points (eight), but showed signs of regaining his composure late in the year, playing the final 12 games of the regular season and all six in the playoff series without committing a flagrant foul.
Crystal Ball: The most controversial player but clearly one of the most important on the roster, he has the ability to take over games, defensively. If he can sort out his emotions and come to terms with the limits of his offensive potential, Artest could grow into a dominant force. If not, he will continue to stand in his own way.
Final Grade: B-minus.