I registered here so I could defend what I wrote. Thanks bulletproof for posting it here.
On Al Harrington
First of all, he's 24, not 23. It may not seem like a big difference, but there's no reason to misrepresent a player's age to make him seem like he has more room for improvement than he does. The assumption that a player will keep getting better every year until he's 27 is an assumption that many 15-year-olds have made over the years, but eventually they realize it doesn't work that way. I have argued several times on other boards that players reach their potential at the age of 24, that the only exceptions are hard-nosed guys with an incredible work ethic. That does not describe Al, so I think he's in his prime now.
Besides, my reason for saying Al isn't starter material isn't that he's peaked, my reason for saying that is that he's a tweener. The problem with tweeners is that they really struggle with defensive assignments because they are too slow to guard small forwards or shooting guards and they are not bulky enough to guard power forwards. In the playoffs last year, Paul Pierce exploded when Al tried to guard him, and did pretty much nothing when Ron guarded him. When Al starts it will be too easy for the other team to create mismatches.
Given that Al has some great offensive skills, I think the fact that he's a tweener makes the role of first scorer off the bench the perfect role for him. He's not a well-rounded player, so when there are other scorers like JO in the game who dominate the ball, Al doesn't really do much for us. As bulletproof said, I wasn't putting Al down, I was just saying that the loss of Ron means we are not in a good position to utilize Al's talents. That's why he's been struggling, and he will continue to struggle until Ron gets back, I think.
On Jonathan Bender
His game still has serious holes, anyone can see that. I think it's great that we have a guy on our roster with as much talent as he does, but when we are a championship contender it's stupid to worry about developing talent. We need to play the consistent performers who we know can step up, not the guys who sometimes look great and sometimes look awful because they're too young to be consistent. If we were an average team, I'd feel differently.
Remember that Jonathan Bender played the fourth quarter of Game 1 against the Celtics last year, and his atrocious performance probably cost us that game, which proved pivotal in the series. Do you want to repeat that? I don't.
On Ron Artest
When I talk about putting a team on his back and willing it to victory, I'm talking about his attitude, not how many points he scores. Ron Artest cares about winning more than he cares about being alive. Guys feed off that kind of heart. There is a tiny handful of guys with that kind of heart, I'm talking about Artest, Allen Iverson, Ben Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Mike Bibby, and Kobe Bryant. They aren't all the best players in the league, but they're the guys you win championships with.
And Shaq? Please. That guy is an oaf who gets fat in the offseason and doesn't take care of his body. He has no heart at all. What a waste of talent.
Thanks for the comments everyone!