Lakers forward Ron Artest is reportedly angling for a trade from the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
According to ESPN's Mark Stein, Artest's reasons for wanting a ticket out of town are two-fold: he feels that the Lakers continuing struggles will eventually lead to him being made a scapegoat--and feels the team would never do the same to more high-profile players like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, or long-serving veteran Derek Fisher--and he is upset that his role in the team's offense has been diminished to such an extent that he has become less-engaged on defense--which cannot bode well for a player whose lock-down defense has been his calling card throughout his career.
However, with Artest's advancing age, relatively large contract (he is still owed three years and $22 million), and decreased production, the Lakers will likely be hardpressed to find suitors for a trade.
Yahoo! Sports' Kelly Dwyer points out that Artest has become the latest in a long line of coach Phil Jackson's targets for harsh verbal criticism, much like Horace Grant and Toni Kukoc of the Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s before him. Dwyer points out though that Jackson was able to repair whatever fissures that came between him and those players, and with reports of Jackson agreeing to no longer criticize Artest in public, it appears there may not be cause for alarm just yet.
The NBA's trade deadline is February 24, so the Lakers have time to evaluate their situation and make a decision, but with a player as enigmatic as Ron Artest, the team is going to have to go about whatever course of action they pursue delicately.