Ron Artest was fined by Lakers Coach Phil Jackson on Friday, one day after Artest banked in an off-balance shot at the buzzer to give the Lakers a 103-101 victory over the Phoenix Suns and a 3-2 series lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.
Artest was late to practice by about a half hour.
And why would that be?
"I think he was so excited after the game that all the processing of things that were on the board didn't register," Jackson said.
But perhaps that excitement was warranted, considering the sequence of events that led up to Artest's game-winner. Not only was he one for eight from the floor with two points before the put-back, but he had missed two shots inside of about a minute to play, including a three-point attempt with 22 seconds left that Jackson said Artest never should have taken.
After that shot, Jackson said he told Artest, "Those are the judgment, decision-making things that we're asking you to make good choices on."
Jackson said after the game that he wasn't sure why he left Artest in, but he said Friday that Artest "was kind of feeling bad about it, obviously. And the redemption one minute later was great for him. How else can you say it? I kept saying to my coaching staff, 'Can Ron give us a boost out there? Is he going to help us or hurt us while he's out there?' And we found out he did, he helped us."
Jackson has certainly coached a collection of eccentric characters -- Dennis Rodman comes to mind -- but even with that experience, he said he couldn't describe Artest.
"I tell Lamar [Odom] that he's his guardian," Jackson said. "So we have not the blind leading the blind, but probably the deaf leading the blind in that situation.
"But those two grew up together and have a history. The thing that I enjoy more than anything else is the excitement and the happy faces that surrounded Ron, after he made the shot, of his teammates, who all knew he messed up and were rooting for him to have a comeback."
Artest had told reporters that he has felt disrespected at times when opposing teams leave him open, almost baiting him to shoot. Jackson said he has talked to both Artest and Odom about that.
"We usually tell Ron and Lamar, 'There's a reason why you're open,' " Jackson said. "I don't know if it makes enough sense, saying it that way, but there is. We told Ron, 'Last year in our game plan against Houston that we anticipated this type of behavior and were ready and willing to allow you to hit a three in those situations. We believe you can hit them, but you have to have good judgment when you do.' "
How has Artest done in that regard, in terms of not taking the bait?
"Not very well," Jackson said, laughing. "There's still room for improvement."
-- Baxter Holmes