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Ron Artest plans to abstain from alcohol for the 2010-11 season

October 9, 2010 |  6:55 pm

54410566The celebration never seemed to end and the alcohol seemed to keep on flowing.

Moments after Lakers forward Ron Artest entered the locker room, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant poured champagne on his 2010 NBA Finals championship hat. As Artest gleefully recounted to reporters the circuitous route he's taken in his 11-year career before finally winning a title, Lakers backup center DJ Mbenga poured beer on his head. And once he finally made it to his own locker, Artest's family popped open a bottle of champagne and asked him to take a sip.

Artest showed afterward how he loved the taste of winning a championship. But the post- Game 7celebration also apparently demonstrated how Artest's acquired taste for alcohol had significantly waned.

"It was weird. I didn't even want to drink it, really," Artest said after practice Saturday at the team's facility in El Segundo. "It was fun at the time. But I didn't have the stomach for alcohol, anymore."

That's because Artest said he had abstained from drinking since January of 2010 in hopes that the decreased carbohydrates and increased mobility could ensure consistent defensive performances. Even as Artest celebrated the Lakers' title with consuming Hennessy before the Lakers' parade and made non-stop appearances at night clubs the next few weeks, he said he managed to force himself to stop drinking alcohol by the end of July. It also served as a key variable, Artest said, in ensuring the same mobility for the 2010-11 season. 

"It paid off so much," said Artest, who says he currently weighs about 250 pounds. "I've been drinking alcohol since I was 17 years old, or 15 years old."

But he says he doesn't plan to drink at all this season. I only wonder what was Artest's name on his fake ID as a teenager and how will the alcohol industry fare in the next quarter assuming he follows through on abstaining from drinking all season. And for those wondering what might happen should California legalize marjuana? "Even if they legalize marijuana," Artest said, as he left a group of reporters, "I won't be smoking marijuana."

Those are questions for another day, but here's the most pressing one: How does Artest's slimmed down figure affect the Lakers this season?

The way Artest explains it, the weight loss could largely determine how well he fulfills his duty as a lock-down defender this season. Though he entered the pre-season with a hamstring issue, Artest has looked through two games incredibly mobile and displayed the sure-fire intensity that's defined his defensive toughness. That reputation warranted Artest to garner high accolades from the league's general managers that say this in a preseason survey: Artest is tied with Bryant as the NBA's best defensive player, second as the league's top defensive player on the perimeter and third as an on-the-ball defender.

That recognition doesn't just point to Artest's physical bulk. It also points to his quick footwork and relentless conditioning, marking the reason why he hopes to weigh 245 pounds for the NBA Finals (assuming the Lakers make it, of course).

"I shed all the unnecessary weight," Artest said. "I worked hard this summer to get rid of the weight. I'm able to maintain smaller and quicker guys. I know with Kobe's knee, he's going to need the reinforcement. I'm going to have to be able to guard quicker guys."

That includes covering Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, whom Artest held under his season average during the Lakers'first-round matchup with the Thunder. Though Artest expressed uncertainty as to whether Carmelo Anthony would remain in Denver, the Nuggets All-Star is another opponent that Artest frustrated during a February regular-season matchup. Though he managed to fulfill that role last season, he entered the 2009-10 season weighing 268 pounds and eventually dropping to 265. There, perhaps, could be one exception he'll make in determining how much weight he wants to lose or gain.

"When we get to the championship, I'll worry about the big guy later -- LeBron," Artest said. "He's not losing weight."

But for now Artest will worry about shedding the pounds so he can stay active. He'll continue to run on the treadmill. He'll continue to be strict with his diet, which last year consisted of plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables. And he plans to stay away from alcohol.

"It's kind of cool," Artest said. "It's worth it, though, because it helps keep the weight off, too. All those extra carbohydrates aren't on me."

--Mark Medina

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Photo: Kobe Bryant helps soak Ron Artest in champagne in the Lakers ' locker room. Bryant earned his fifth championship ring. Artest, who scored 20 points in Game 7, earned his first. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times