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Preseason question of the day: Will an improved Ron Artest show up?

54410566Once the horn sounded, Lakers forward Ron Artest ran cross court to hug Kobe Bryant. Artest had spent all season trying to keep his emotions in check, even forcing himself not to savor the experience, fearing that it would distract him from helping the Lakers win a championship. But now that it was official and Artest had won his first title in his 11-year career, he could let everything seep right out.

In the locker room, Bryant poured a bottle of champagne over Artest's head just as he began to pour out his emotions. When reporters arrived moments later, Artest recapped the circuitous route he took to finally arrive at this point, a destination that proved as lengthy as his recollection. For too long, Artest's involvement with the Malice at the Palace fueled his on- and off-court persona as someone wild and unpredictable. Though he certainly displayed the two latter characteristics in the champagne-soaked locker room and deadline-anxious postgame interview room, this time the antics were met with laughs instead of scorn.

It seemed that once Artest tasted what it truly felt like to be a champion, nothing could quench his infectious happiness, excitement and hunger. Once he helped the Lakers win the 2010 title, a new chapter had begun. Artest released a rap single titled "Champion," performed at numerous Hollywood nightspots; appeared at a random dodgeball competition; drove around L.A. in a race car; and on a serious note, spoke out on mental health issues at a local high school.

It's been one hell of a ride for Artest this summer, and it's easy to think that when it stops, it'll be hard for him to catch his breath and work again toward accomplishing what made him so happy in the first place.

I disagree. And that's a good thing for the Lakers, who should enter the 2010-2011 regular season comfortable that Artest will build off of last year's success.

54398907Players who taste glory early in their careers and think winning titles is the norm may have a letdown. Players who accomplished feats on talent alone with very little work ethic may have a letdown. Players on teams that lack mature leadership may have a letdown.

But Artest fits none of those categories.

It took Artest 11 years to win a title, and very few thought it was conceivable six years ago that he'd be in this position. All accounts suggest he remained the team's hardest worker, just behind Kobe Bryant. And Artest has the proper checks and balances with Bryant, Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson that would make it impossible for him to go astray. 

Artest certainly experienced some rough patches last season while fitting into a secondary role, understanding the triangle and managing the constant scrutiny over whether he would be a worthy replacement for Trevor Ariza. He even had a few head-scratching episodes, such as his Christmas night concussion, appearing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in his boxers and lamenting via Twitter his frustrations over Jackson questioning his shot selection.

No one once, however, questioned his effort.

Artest went out of his way to compliment teammates, worked hard to lose weight and repair his plantar fasciitis and in most cases fulfilled his role as a lockdown defender. It's an interesting turn of events because very early in the NBA Finals, it appeared his legacy with the Lakers would entail a disappointment. Then something happened.

"It's funny -- right at the end I think he found his rhythm," Lakers forward Lamar Odom remarked during his exit interview. "You saw that the last couple games, especially the last games. It'll be interesting to see him play to that rhythm from the start of the year."

It'll be a much easier start than last year. Although he's not in the position to write a sequel to Jackson's "Sacred Hoops," he understands the offense, how his production points more to off-ball movement than jacking up open shots, and embraces Jackson's teaching. Although everyone can struggle during a long campaign, Artest will no longer be seen as an outsider trying to fit in. And though the public and team will be in store for more laughs and goofy antics, they'll fit within the context of an oddball teammate lightening the mood instead of disrupting it.

Artest already tasted defeat, agony and scorn. Once he tasted Champagne in the Lakers locker room, he tasted victory, and it has made him want more. So as the 2010-2011 season gets underway, Artest will be happy to do whatever it takes to come back for seconds.

--Mark Medina

[email protected]

Photos, from top: Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest soak in the Lakers' 2010 NBA Finals victory in the locker room; Lakers forward Artest and Celtics forward Paul Pierce go face to face after getting tangled while battling for rebounding position in the first half of Game 7 of the Finals. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times

 
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Oh yes - experience + exuberance + love.

MM - I'm with you on Artest. He had a huge weight on his shoulders last year; in his own mind, if the Lakers lost, he was taking responsibility. The way he came through (and keeping his defense stellar in the playoffs and finals) should loosen him up, and with the looseness will come the better shooting. Hesitation is not a good thing for a scorer, and I saw Ron hesitate more times last year than in his entire career.

Oh Yes too ....Ring + (Triangle Experience + Joy + Reassurance + Peace - Psychologist - Ariza Comparison) = 2 Rings

Going back which is the most divisive debate:
The debate re: Drew seems to occupy more space, and for quite a long time now, between certain bloggers.
The debate over Fish carries a more emotional ring to it from both pro and con, to the point of ugliness at times. What with Fish's long and illustrious history with the Lakers, his trials and tribulations (daughter's eye), numerous clutch moments, regular season shortcomings, and the way Kobe and Phil value him so highly, to me, makes the pro/con arguments seem waaay more divisive.
Just my take.
By the way, I'm a Drew and Fish booster.
Wildone

Basically the ghosts of the Malace and the Palace have been exorcized and it'll be easier for Ron to focus as a result. I expect his offense to improve next season.
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What do we play for? RINGS!!!
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Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.
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GO LAKERS!!!

Now the burden has been shifted from Artest's shoulder to Barne's and that is a big luxury to have. Artest just needs to improve on dribbling, 3pt shooting and dribbling~. His defense will be always there... I think lakers did a nice job on recruting defense/pass first minded players because lakers are already stacked with offensive players. did I mention artest needs to work on his dribbling?(why does he dribble so high making it vulnerable to snatch the ball easily)

Ron Ron will be fine if:
he flies under the radar during the upcoming season. Enjoy the limelight for a couple more weeks, then go through the season with not soooo much going on at the same time.
Keep honing your role in the triangle. Get and stay comfortable. The threes will fall.
Stay the defensive beast he's always been. Everyone he guarded in the playoffs put up lesser than their regular season numbers. That's why, despite his shooting woes, he was my Lakers playoff MVP runner up (sorry Pau).

Overall, Artest was motivated and stayed away from technical fouls last year......HOw many techs did he receive last season??? People were most concerend about his behavior on the court but he was able to act very calm throughout the season i think.

Hey, it's all good, we are Laker fans!

I guarantee that every opponent Artest guards next season -- and he'll always guard the best -- will be dreading tip-off all damn day long. The guy is a defensive beast, and he never stops hassling the player he's marking. I love me some Ron Ron.

Go Lake Show!

My recollection is that Ron-Ron kept blathering about improving even after everything was accomplished last season. Everyone knows that the most difficult positions to master in the triangle are the wing positions and, believe it or not, he's not a low IQ player (although sometimes you wonder with some of his ill-advised attempts in the paint). It has been said that it tales a year to a year and a half to become comfortable in the triangle to the point where knowing your spots on the floor are second nature. Couple that with learning how to be the fourth option as a starter after being a #1 or #2 option most of his career and learning how to play with Alpha dog Kobe as his wing partner and the only thing I can deduce is that we'll see a better Artest this season on the offensive end. Think about it. How much worse can his outside shooting be than it was last season anyway?

His defense in the playoffs was masterful and he will continue to wreak havoc on the NBA small forwards, especially in the playoffs. As great as Durant is, he still will have to get open. The only potential downside I see is that he is now 31 and every player ages differently. He's a workout freak, so I don;t expect him to slow down and he said he wants to play at a lighter weight this year, so we'll see about that. Assuming he didn't become a "fat cat" after winning his first ring, I'm excited about seeing a better Artest this season. Frankly, if he can play like he did last season and come up big like he did at the end of the WCF and NBA Finals, I'll take that, too.

Durant is enjoying his superstar moments after the Team USA championship. Good for him, coz.....ARTEST IS WAITING FOR YOU. Get ready for 6-20 again, young fella, you'll barely see the ball.

@jimmy - "Ron-Ron has a colored mentality and ruins the team"

Obviously your "grammar check" wasn't working right because I think you meant to say "colorful" mentality, and I don't agree: I think Ron's colorful mentality absolutely helps the team.

And the hits just keep on comin'.

RonRom will feel more comfortable and confident this year does making him much better. Besides, he now has a long list of back ups at SF.

The Outlaw

"I guarantee that every opponent Artest guards next season -- and he'll always guard the best -- will be dreading tip-off all damn day long."

You mean like this? ROFLMFAO!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiVy-MTfhac


The Outlaw

"I guarantee that every opponent Artest guards next season -- and he'll always guard the best -- will be dreading tip-off all damn day long."

Or like this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jbh_S246Fs

Trade Kobe for Kevin Durant if Lakers don't 3peat...... or the lug Andrew Bynum for sure..

In the morning I get up...and I try to be alive...but I can't..."
LRob - what song and what artist did that line come from...
Posted by: LEWSTRS | September 17, 2010 at 08:48 AM

What's up Lewstrs,

You know you're not supposed to talk about anything Miami related up in here...lol. That would be Hootie and his boys, "I Go Blind"...late 90's sometime. I wasn't a huge Blowfish fan, but they were cool.

I hear Rucker sometimes on with Dan Patrick. He's a huge sports fan. I'm sure he's loving the Heat right about now. Some of his new counry stuff is good if you're into that.

Great post MM! I have NO DOUBT that we will see a highly motivated and improved Artest this coming season. He has earned the trust and respect from his teammates and that can only help his production within the starting unit.

A more interesting "question of the day" for me is - Has there ever been a more highly anticipated start of the season for the Lakers...one so replete with positives? I can't recall ever feeling so good about a coming season, irrespective of what other teams are doing to bolser themselves in an effort to take from us what is rightfully ours.

MM,

Another excellent article. Like mostly everyone has mentioned, I expect Ron to play better this year. He's always been an aggressive confident player, but last year he was finding his way. This year I expect to see more of the old Artest. I know its cliche but I've never seen Ron give less than 100%.

Interesting query, MM, I happen to think Artest will play pretty much the same way. He might make a better read or two in the system, but overall I expect him to contribute in a similar fashion as he did last year.


Artest is like an AC/DC song all rolling thunder and pouring rain, comin on like a hurricane. He's the strangest combo of talent and emotion I've ever seen (I know about Dennis Rodman, Rodman didn't have anywhere near the talent Artest has). Will he improve his shot selection? Doubtful, he's been taking those shots since he came into the league. Will his passing improve? Not by much, Artest has always been an above average passer and will continue to be one as I said above his reads in the O may improve slightly.


Certainly his rep on D will be his main focus, as it should be, his scoring will be needed but not like on other teams where he was the best player. We'll need him to make some plays but mostly try to hit the open shot when it's there. My hope is that he tries to play a little closer to the rim, take a step or two in from the three point line and keep hounding the best perimeter player on the other team.


Everything else is gravy.

The most annoying defensive tag team of any two player in the same position Artest-Barnes will probably be.


How will Lebron, Pierce, Melo, Durant feels everytime they faced the Lakers? IS this the new Lakers strength? Or is it still the C/PF tag team of the trio of Bynum/Gasol/Odom?


Which one is the MAIN strength of the Lakers this season? Can you put it in order of importance to the Lkaers success this season.


1 The closer of Kobe Bryant.
2 The tag team of C/PF of AB/PG/LO.
3 The tag team of Ron, Matt as SF.
4 The solid and matured play of our PG Fish n' Blake.
5 The no Playin time for Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic.
6 The impact of the rookies DC and EB.

Durant is enjoying his superstar moments after the Team USA championship. Good for him, coz.....ARTEST IS WAITING FOR YOU. Get ready for 6-20 again, young fella, you'll barely see the ball.
Posted by: Magic Phil | September 17, 2010 at 10:31 AM
--------
Magic Phil - Ron really did a number on Durant in the playoffs, but remember that was KD's first time to the rodeo. I wouldn't go pulling on Durant's cape. He's one of the few guys in the league that scares me.

Which one is the MAIN strength of the Lakers this season? Can you put it in order of importance to the Lkaers success this season.

1 The closer of Kobe Bryant.
2 The tag team of C/PF of AB/PG/LO.
3 The tag team of Ron, Matt as SF.
4 The solid and matured play of our PG Fish n' Blake.
5 The no Playin time for Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic.
6 The impact of the rookies DC and EB.

Posted by: Staples 24 | September 17, 2010 at 11:15 AM
--------------

Staples 24 - I like your order as is. It all starts with Kobe. Then the PF/C...BIG 3.

Ron will be very solid this year.

***

Edwin, I thought your comments about team ownership in the last thread were terrific.

MM,
And Artest has the proper checks and balances with Bryant, Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson that would make it impossible for him to go astray.
--
Gotta add Odom to that group who will help outv Ron Ron.

LRob - you have won the showcase behind door #1...

LOL...should of known better than to check your knowledge in music...

Great job as usual...

Ron Ron is the man baybee!!! One of my favorites now, Artest will even be better this year...

On target and ditto: 63 footer, The Outlaw, Jon K.

I think Ron's offensive game is going to open up way more this year. It seems clear the Lakers made Ron focus solely on defense and shutting down the #1 option for every team while he learned the nuances of the Triangle. His season peaked at just the right moment - the Finals.

This season, I think he and Barnes will be the defensive leaders. And since Ron has a champion's mindset now, he will know when to exercise his offensive skills. I believe his scoring production and assists will be way better this year. He gets it now.

8 more days. Cheers - PLG.

Excellent article MM. Ron Ron remains an enigma. I think sometimes even he doesn't know what goes on in his head. His calm and 'sane' demeanor he displayed during the most important game of his life - seventh game against Boston, gives me hope that Ron Ron is strong enough to smother the demons lurking in his subconscious. He's excitable like a kid but he plays basketball like a man. As a fan, i'll take him with the good and the bad - but with team mates he respects around him, i think he'll be mostly good. Lakers threepeat!!!

LAKER TRUTH

"CyberX,

I respect your opinion (optimism?) that Bynum will continue to improve his health, but to flat out argue that he is not injury prone is simply ignoring the facts and being a homer. Bynum HIMSELF admitted that he is injury prone."
=====

This is uncalled for. Just because someone looks at the same set of facts and arrives at a different conclusion than you does not mean that he's a "homer" or that he's "ignoring facts."

If you saw the interview where Bynum was asked whether he's injury prone, he shrugged his shoulders, smirked with his little grin and said, "Yeah, I guess I am." It was more like he just "admitted" this so the interviewer would move on to the next question. I don't blame him.

Here's a twist for you. I think the pessimists like you are the "homers." How shocking, huh? I say this because the reason people like you exaggerate the extent of Bynum's injuries is because this is LAKERLAND, the Land of Entitled Fans. Only "homers" who constantly feel entitled to superstar production from their players would completely blow out of proportion Bynum's injury history, especially when you compare him to players like Yao. So basically you ignored the fact that Bynum made that comment to diffuse the issue and you are being a homer because his 15.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 1.4 bpg in 30.4 mpg in 65 games while playing all 23 playoff games on a bad wheel AND GROWING UP LEAPS AND BOUND IN THE PROCESS while helping us to back-to-back championships wasn't good enough for you. He made it to the finish line while Kendrick Perkins didn't. You also ignore the fact that he was completely healthy his first 2 NBA seasons and that it takes time for serious knee injuries to heal 100%.

So please stop blowing this thing out of proportion because only a homer would do that. And please stop ignoring the facts that count (maturation and bling). Yeah, I know all about his wide pelvis and knock knees. I'm sure there are many other healthy NBA players with anatomical similarities. But you're not an expert on this stuff and you don't have a crystal ball either. You also haven't cornered the market on what is the truth and what isn't the truth. To me, your truth is nothing more than paranoia. And that's because you're a die hard Lakers fan, aka a "homer." I know you don't realize that you're a homer, but it comes through loud and clear to this long time fan who has seen quite a bit. I enjoy our conversations, but it's not nice to call people name just because they see something differently than you do. You don't like it, do you? :)


I expect a vastly improved Ron Artest this season for the follow reasons:

1. A full year's experience in the triangle offense. Remember that Finals Game 7? You could see the focus he had in the game, the fluidity of his movements on the court. In fact, that serious face only changed when he gave kisses to the crowd after that triple with a minute left in the game.
2. Another year of seeing the work ethic of Kobe and Pau, and the locker room leadership of DFish.
3. I believe that success makes a person hungrier for more. Like a vampire who has tasted blood for the first time, he now knows the taste of winning.
4. A full year as a Laker, he will be more involved during team huddles. He is no longer a newbie but now one of the boys.
5. He may be flaky at times, but he's a better personality than Rodman ( probably thanks to his psychiatrist?). His activities after the Finals is just endearing. Yeah, that includes riding around in a race car with an expired license.

Hello All,
First of all, let me extend a "Congratulations" to Ron Ron Artest for demonstrating the "championship mentality" that the Laker Organization believed he had when they invited him to the "Family".

Ron has matured, or should I say, re-matured into the leadership type player that we all knew he was through out his career. We all sometimes get distracted by unwise decisions that we make, however, our God given skills will always remain.

I hope Ron returns as a seasoned professional, fun loving and prepared to focus only upon the Team objectives no matter what the opinionists may think.

Congrats Lakers! I wish you much continued success.

Long time blog reader/first time blog poster here. This blog rules - really entertaining.

I know this is a Ron Ron Article but everyone discusses Bynum in the comments of every article, so I'm getting into the mix. It seems to me that the majority of laker fans are too busy watching the offensive gametime highlights of kobe and pau to notice Bynum's offensive improvement or they'd be praising him more. It must be due to his work with Kareem, but all of last season i couldn't get over his quick (for a 7 footer) footwork. He has a wider variety of reliable low post moves and a better all around offensive game than D. Howard, who has pretty unanimously been regarded as a top 5 of MVP candidate over the last couple years. Howard's got better stats on the boards and blocks but he's not sharing the post (and available rebounds) with another 7 footer. Howard also plays quite a bit more mins per game, but offensively all he really has are putbacks. People ignore that because most of his putbacks are awesome looking dunks, but that's all he's got. His offensive skills are far below Bynum's.
As a Drew fan, it irritates me that people consider him so dispensable and are always shouting "trade him". We wouldn't have repeated without Bynum, and we won't 3-peat without him...
With that said, I'm holding out on the debate of him "injury prone-ness" until this season. If remians healthy all season, then the knee injuries were flukes. If it happens AGAIN, then i'll agree that we have a problem.

Thanks for reading my ramble. Itching for this season to start! Let's go Lakers.

Boston sucks/LeBron's weak minded/Cuban's delusional

Artest did not appear on Kimmel in his boxer shorts!!! If you watched the show, and listened to what Ron said, you would know that they are actually shorts that people keep confusing for boxer shorts. They are the same shorts he wore when he missed the team bus. THEY ARE NOT BOXER SHORTS!!

...."I love the Laker's....and that all I gotta say 'bout that....

Lakers 3-peat!!! And you can take that to the bank


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