Historically, the playoffs have taken Ron Artest to another level, which isn't always a good thing. The attention paid to each game feeds the beast that is Ronnie's game but also puts him on edge as the stake get higher.
Artest likes to prove his game is elite. He loves running into the challenge head on. But as we lived through during his days with the Pacers, the deeper Ronnie goes in the playoffs and the more acute the attention, the more dangerous he becomes.
He's dangerous to his opponents because when he's singularly focused on playing the game, he's a nightmare to handle. Think of Ronnie like a pot of water on the stove. He needs to get a good rolling boil going before he's ready to start cooking.
The burners are plenty hot in the second round of the playoffs and with Kobe Bryant in play, Ronnie sees a crystal clear shot at redemption for all his past transgressions if he can lead his team past the favored Lakers. He desperately wants to be considered in a class with Kobe. This is his time.
Of course, a fully engaged Ronnie is also dangerous to his own team, just as a boiling pot of water is dangerous if you're not careful. If you add some pasta and don't stir or monitor the pot, the water will boil over and you have a mess on your hands.
When Ronnie is engaged in high stakes playoff games, like he is now, he just can't roll through any adversity he feels could unjustly deny him and his team a chancee eto win.
As JMV mentioned this afternoon, when Ronnie reacted aggressively to Kobe's elbow on Wednesday night, it was impossible not to flash back to the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. In the waning minutes of a closely contested Game 6, as the Pacers were trying to push the series to a Game 7, Rip Hamilton popped Ronnie in the junk. Much like Wednesday night, Ronnie reacted to what he rightfully felt was an unjust situation by throwing a forearm at Hamilton.
No one could blame Ronnie for being upset, but retaliating and then looking for sympathy never works regardless of how just the reasoning. The Pacers were hanging on by a thread against Detroit, and Ronnie's reaction turned into a four-point play in a low scoring game. The life was sucked out of the Pacers and after the Pistons cashed in on Ronnie's outburst you could cue the Price Is Right loser horn. Thanks for playing, good luck next year.
So, here we are again, five years later. The Lakers have plenty of players to needle Artest when his game is at a rolling boil. The heat will only be more intense as the series progresses. Will Ronnie be able to handle it, roll through any adversity and actually give his team a chance at winning the series? It would be a shocking surprise, but one I'll be rooting to see happen.