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First things first: the latest word is that the three-year, $21-million deal that has been speculated as the Raptors' offer for Shawn Marion might be a bit light, I'm hearing. Think four years and north of $32-million; maybe as much as $34-million. If that's the case what is Marion waiting for, really?

Back to that in a moment, but let me say this: I can't imagine if I covered neurosurgery instead of basketball I'd ever have a day when I though to myself: 'Stupid neurosurgeons, what the hell do they know? That was a totally dumb move."

Knowing that you don't know stuff is a big part of being a decent reporter and I don't see me ever shaking that feeling on the neurosurgery beat.

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And even though the NBA isn't neurosurgery, I'm not the type to sit around and figure I know better, though sometimes it does cross my mind.

But seriously, Ron Artest? The Lakers signed Ron-Ron?

And let Trevor Ariza walk?

Are they insane?

Stupid Los Angeles Lakers, what the hell do they know?

Sure Phil Jackson coached Dennis Rodman with the Bulls to great effect. Dennis Rodman was quirky, weird and a heavy drinker, but in his own way he always struck me as rational. He understood celebrity, knew how to make himself stand out, made a lot of money as a result, and otherwise was good for 15 rebounds a game, lockdown defense at three positions and -- perhaps most importantly - didn't take any shots from Jordan or Pippen.

Does Ron Artest strike anyone as rational? The throwing balls at his teammates heads from his days with the Bulls? His getting a job at the electronics store so he could get the employee discounts? The leave of absence to pursue the rap career?

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I'm not even going to mention the brawl or the not feeding the dogs part, it feels like piling on.

More relevant is the shot selection. The guy takes crazy shots.

That alone should have been enough for the Lakers to pass. Particularly when they let Ariza got to Houston, saying goodbye to a rapidly improving 24-year-old who runs, hits open threes and makes spectacular steals to win games in the NBA Finals.


Anyway, to me this is good news for the Raptors.

I think one of the keys to this whole slow dance with Marion has been him coming to the realization that his days of earning $18-million a year are gone and not coming back. I had a very plugged-in guy with a Central Division club tell me he thought Marion would be doing well to get the mid-level; or five years for $33-million.

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Seeing Artest get three years of mid-level money to sign with the Lakers might help Marion's agent, Don Fegan, have an easier go of explaining to Marion why he's going to have to take a pretty big paycut this year.

Everything I know about Bryan Colangelo's style is that he's not the type to hold the Artest deal over Marion's head. My sources are solid on the four-year offer of over $8-million per for Marion. That seems a little rich to me, frankly, but given where the Raptors are and where they're headed, I understand it. And apparently there is some sign-and-trade interest in and around those numbers, so maybe the money isn't so out of whack.

Regardless, because I don't buy season tickets or pay the bills at MLSE, it's easy for me to say trade Bosh and start over. For various reasons there's not an appetite for that at MLSE right now, so the question is what's the best way to become competitive?

I think signing Marion, adding the likes of Kleiza and Delfino and maybe finding a way to keep Parker (long-shot; Real Madrid is coming hard) is the most direct route to 45+ wins. I'd like to see them find a really solid water-bug type as a back-up point guard too, but I don't think the money is going to line up.

But at some point Marion's going to have realize that the market really has shifted in a very short amount of time. If I'm him I take the Raptors money and be glad of it.

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