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D.J. Mbenga views bleached look as appreciative gesture toward Ron Artest

April 21, 2010 | 11:25 pm

Lakers forward Ron Artest had been down this path before, thinking a dye job would lighten the team mood and spark a turnaround. Instead, the bleached look in March only cast more attention on the Lakers' loss to Orlando as well as on Artest's poor offensive and defensive performance. It prompted him to shave his head the following day.

As  the postseason approached, Artest considered bleaching his hair again but immediately changed his mind. He didn't exactly say why, but it's safe to assume part of the thinking involved concerns that it would only raise questions about his priorities and how he constantly seeks the spotlight. But Artest quickly changed his mind once reserve center D.J. Mbenga approached him about coloring their hair together.

"It makes it easier for me to get a haircut," said Artest, who currently has purple and gold asymmetrical waves and a gold-dyed soul patch. "I was not going to get a haircut because I wanted to focus on the game. But since D.J. wanted to do it, I felt more comfortable doing it. "

For those who see this as all just a sideshow for pregame fodder, also consider this angle: Although the gesture is small in nature, Mbenga's plea for Artest to bleach their hair together speaks volumes to locker room dynamics. That doesn't necessarily mean Artest or the team will suddenly experience a postseason resurgence. But finding any small way to further team unity can surely measure up for the better, particularly during a playoff run. It can lighten the mood in practice. It can become a conversation starter among teammates. And for Artest and Mbenga, it's now a common thread the two share together.

That's what makes the dye job Artest did in March different than the one he just did toward the end of the regular season. What was once something that created individual attention and possible alienation from the locker room is now something that can make Artest feel more comfortable.

"Ron, we know he's kind of a different person," said Mbenga, who has C$ (Congo Cash) bleached in purple. "We've got to go this way, accept the way he does [things], and he'll feel comfortable. If he has to do it, and whatever we have to do for him to play better, we're going to support him. That's what it is. That's how we all understand and know each other. That's why we came out together."

--Mark Medina

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