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Ron Artest finalizes ring raffle

December 26, 2010 |  7:21 pm

The text message popped up and set off a slight moment of anxiety.

Lakers forward Ron Artest was set to arrive Tuesday at the Target Terrace in L.A. Live to introduce his public service announcement with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, but he just texted his publicist he'd be 20 minutes late because of traffic. It's not a big deal except this announcement preceded the Lakers-Milwaukee game, meaning arriving late there would result in a fine from Coach Phil Jackson.

Artest managed to arrive to Staples Center on time, but his need to monitor the clock epitomized the tug-of-war he felt between balancing his Laker responsibilities and promotional efforts raffling off his championship ring for mental health charities. That's why Artest felt a sense of relief on Christmas, the day Raymond Mikkael, a father of four and a Hawthorne resident, learned he won the contest, which was announced at the Conga Room following the Lakers' 96-80 loss to the Miami Heat.

"It got a lot of pub and it took some of my time," said Artest, who added he raised about $600,000 for the effort. "It's cool to know that it's over and we can start donating money to different charities."

Some of those destinations include charities in New York, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Detroit, with the latter city representing "the scar I left there," as Artest put it, referring to the brawl he was involved in as a member of the Indiana Pacers, for which he drew a 75-game suspension. It's an effort that made Lakers Coach Phil Jackson noticed made Artest a "little disconnected" because of his multiple responsibilities, an effort that he said has "intrigued" him because it's actually going to benefit to those in need.

That disconnect appeared visible in the Lakers' loss Christmas Day to Miami where Artest fell to foul trouble and largely became fixated on intimidating LeBron James instead of actually guarding him. He also spent 15 minutes speaking with reporters beforehand, speaking on a wide range of topics.

On James' new shoes: "I wore LeBron's before. The first ones I wore were really heavy. It was like a tank. I could've actually individually won a war with those shoes on. No army, no self defense, LeBron shoes. They were so heavy and so big. They used to hurt my calluses. Now the new and improved LeBron shoes, I really like. Unfortunately, my son likes his shoes also. I'm not happy about it."

On buying Christmas presents for his family: "It costs so much. I need a tax break. I want a tax break directly from Obama because it costs so much. Unfortunately, diamonds are a girl's best bed. It's unfortunate. I wish diamonds were a man's best friend."

On Jackson's joke that he bought some raffle tickets: "He bought some? Oh wow. That's amazing. He's hungry. He's pretty determined. I don't think he's satisfied."

Still Artest's zaniness and inconsistency with the Lakers shouldn't discount his effort in his ring raffle, an effort he's ensuring will reach the grassroots level by having his management team allocate the money and personally directing where he wants it to go. But he's glad the promotion behind it is finally finished. He no longer has to worry about making duplicate rings, something he made for his wife, mom, dad and former agent, Mark Stevens. He no longer has to worry himself and his publicist about whether his promotional efforts and Laker responsibilities will overlap. And he no longer has to answer concern on whether he'll regret his decision. 

"It's not a bittersweet departure," Artest said. "I'm so anxious to get another ring."  

--Mark Medina

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