Everyone knows that Lakers forward Ron Artest will guard the Celtics' Paul Pierce in the NBA Finals.
Everyone also knows that it's perhaps the most important and intriguing matchup in the series, considering the Lakers didn't have an answer for Pierce in 2008, when the Celtics beat the Lakers for the title. Pierce, who averaged 21.8 points in the six-game series, was named the Finals' most valuable player.
But listening to Artest, perhaps the league's top defender, the last few days, you'd get the impression he's the only one who doesn't know that he will match up with Pierce. He has constantly referred to his teammates, noting that no individual player could stop Pierce.
On Wednesday, Artest finally opened up about facing Pierce, and why he's such a tough player to guard.
"Pierce is a vet," Artest said. "If I was 30, which I am now, and he was younger, there would be things that I could do to use my experience, but he's a vet. He knows how to play. He's still playing well. He didn't lose a step. I respect that. I respect that he's still quick and able to attack."
Artest also added something rather off-topic about facing Pierce, saying that Pierce is one of the few guys who enjoys being guarded by Artest.
"Not too many people enjoy playing against me, because I'm real physical," Artest said. "Pierce is one of the guys who enjoyed it."
The way Pierce put it, facing Artest isn't that enjoyable.
"Obviously I'm playing against one of the top defenders in the game," Pierce said. "So he's going to make things a little bit more harder, a little bit more physical. You've got to expect that. I mean, that's what Ron Artest is, a guy who tries to get in your head throughout the game. Grab you, pull you, scratch you -- you've just got to expect those things."
Pierce said he won't change his mentality going into the Finals and still will be aggressive.
-- Baxter Holmes