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Ron Artest and Phil Jackson offer little explanation for Artest's improved play

Long after everyone had exited the Lakers' practice facility Saturday in El Segundo, Ron Artest remained in the gym popping jumper after jumper.

He had just told reporters that his recent shooting surge -- a 15-for-25 mark (60%) from the field and a seven-of-12 clip (58.3%) from three-point range -- had very little to do with extra shooting. After all, Artest has frequently been the last Laker to leave the floor and opt for more time honing his stroke. But Artest offered very little explanation otherwise, saying, "I don't know," "nothing's changed" and other various forms of uncertainty five times when talking with reporters. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson didn't provide much of a take either, saying, "I can't exactly pinpoint" the reason, before wondering openly whether Matt Barnes' absence from a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee has spurred Artest to fill a bigger role.

"I started off the season really well," Artest said. "I'm in more shape. I had a great training camp and early season and something happened and things weren't going my way. I had to just deal with it. But for me, nothing's changed."

Artest was asked, "So you said something happened. What was that?"

Still no luck.

"I don't know," Artest said. "Nothing really changed for me."

Well if Artest and Jackson don't have an explanation, I certainly have some. Below are four reasons why Artest's game has improved.

1. Championship ring raffle is over

This became a sore subject for Artest when he was asked about it after Christmas Day because he took offense to the presumption that his heart hadn't been in the game. That couldn't be further from the truth considering he's among one of the team's hardest workers and frequently stays after practice to work on his shooting. But he's conceded a few times concern that promoting the championship ring raffle made him feel stretched thin with his Laker responsibilities. Artest perfectly epitomized that stress when he arrived 30 minutes late Dec. 22 to the Target Terrace at L.A. Live because of bad traffic. The fact the Lakers hosted the Milwaukee Bucks two hours later that night across the street didn't make things easier. As well-intentioned as Artest can be, it appears a challenge for him to multitask. As good of a cause as his ring raffle provided for funding mental health charities, the decreased workload since then has helped him remain hone his focus.

2. Increased role during Barnes' absence

The Lakers will surely miss Barnes' presence off the bench, from where he averaged 7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 20.8 minutes through aggressive and efficient play. But Artest has proven so far in four games since Barnes' absence that he can fill the void. After Barnes landed awkwardly while fighting for a rebound in the second quarter of the Lakers' 101-97 loss on Jan. 7 to the New Orleans Hornets, Artest has averaged 33.6 minutes a contest, a sharp increase from the 27.7 minutes a game he's logged all season. His minutes-per-game average would be even higher had he played more than 27 minutes in the Lakers' 112-57 victory against Cleveland, though that would've been completely unnecessary.

"I had a responsibility when I was at Indiana, Sacramento," Artest said. "When I got there, they were in last place. I took them from last place to the eighth spot and almost beat the Spurs when they won the championship. Same thing with Houston. They hadn't been in the playoffs in 12 years and I got them out of the first round. I have a responsibility my whole career."

3. Less needling from Jackson. 

Rarely had Jackson been shy about criticizing Artest, ranging from his shot selection, poor understanding of the triangle and adjusting to a decreased role. He also liked to poke fun at Artest, ranging from his shoes to his goofy antics. Artest confronted Jackson in a late-December practice, asking that he stop publicly criticizing him and expressing the desire forJackson to coach him behind closed doors instead of through the media.

Since then Jackson's comments have been very tempered. Jackson confirmed the report, but refused to speak much about the incident. He hasn't taken any digs at Artest since that time. And all the comments appear very deferential.

On Artest's increased role during Barnes' absence: "He looks forward to it actually. I think Ron will look forward to it. I don't think it will be pressure at all."

On Artest's improved shooting: "Ron's played real well. I think he's playing really well. He's shooting the ball in rhythm and he's quite comfortable. Maybe Matt's out, he feels more responsibility out there or something. I don't know. It's just that time when he's been working extra long in practice on his shots. He's been very effective."

Jackson clarifying his earlier contention that Artest has spent more time recently in the gym: "He's not working any extra hard. He's always working. I can't exactly pinpoint."

Jackson on whether Artest has improved since the ring raffle: "I couldn't put my finger on it."

4. Better rhythm within the offense

Artest's play has also appeared to improve, as indicated by his late-game shots against Phoenix and Golden State, improved entry passes and some feisty defensive play against New York, which helped set the Lakers' tone defensively as they continue sharpening the new scheme that emphasizes closing out on the perimeter, forcing opponents baseline and the frontcourt remaining close to the basket. It's a role Jackson said he assumes Artest will be able to replicate throughout Barnes' absence.

But Artest's performance should go beyond numbers. His rhythm has improved because he doesn't stand in the corner idly as much as before, opting instead to sharpen entry passes, make cuts through the lane and take shots when they're open.

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

 
Comments () | Archives (24)

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Well, Ron might not want to talk about it and Phil may not pinpoint an explanation but something happened between the two of them, calling out and responding to being called out and whatever it is, it's working - Ron's back and playing well again and the Lakers pushed past that lousy stretch and it was only a couple weeks ago. All's good, it's 1:20 AM here in Austin, cold and rain pounding down. And I gotta get up at 6:00, always nice to visit the LAT blog, seems like a long time since those first embryonic days when this blog was one of the few.

5. Ron's affected by "pats on the head" (and who isn't'? Except maybe Kobe). In pre-season he was doing great, but the second Matty started getting accolades for his play, Ron's level of play started to drop. It's not a big thing, but I think Ron just plays better when people are giving him kudos.

63 footer hit it right on the head. in a way ron's kind of a kid at heart and needs to feel needed in order to win. i also think with barnes playing so well, thoughts were starting to enter his head of playing where he would be needed again like Knickland but I think that is no longer the case. we shall see when Barnes returns.

@63 Footer...

I think you're spot on with your analysis. I'd also go with reason #3; less needling from Phil. Ron has to feel he is being counted on. I think that Phil has finally learned that in order to get the best from Ron, you have to empower him and stroke his ego a bit. You can't goad him into production; he's too sensitive for that.

In addition to the great comments above, I'd also add the following (that I also think applies to Matt Barnes). When veterans get bounced around the league finally in their twilight years get a chance to play on a great team and a great player like Kobe, it's a big deal. And it's not just because they finally have a chance to win a ring. Great teams bring out the best playing in you again, and with that, you finally get "the love of the crowd." Yup, sellout crowds rockin' the whole arena, chanting your name or giving you a standing O when you come out of the game, and the bench standing and giving you fives or chest bumps. THAT's a big deal...and especially for a veteran who knows he doesn't have many years left to hear that love. In Ron-Ron's case it's doubly so because he heard it at the end of the year last year, then lost it with his subpar play this year, and now he wants it back...bad.

@ CornerJ...

I hear where you are coming from. I guess it's similar to how many performance artists such as singers and musicians always claim there is nothing quite like the rush of being on stage and being cheered by an appreciative audience.

*_________________________________________________________________________*
ARISE MIGHTY LAKERS NATION. THE SWAGGERS BACK …..WE GOT THIS!! *_________________________________________________________________________*
GAME DAY BABYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY http://tinyurl.com/3yspjcm - Lakers Armageddon
*_________________________________________________________________________*
LAKERS(30-11) vs. CLIPPERS (13, 25)__ 12:30 PM__ TV = KCAL__RADIO = 710/1330 AM ESPN
*_________________________________________________________________________*
http://tinyurl.com/ylp3qqc _ I Love LA http://tinyurl.com/2c9afer - Here comes Lakers
*_________________________________________________________________________*
Good Morning Fabulous Justanothermambafan(Head of Mamba Clan) & Fabulous Morning Crue!!!
DJ LROB, LakerLASS, LEWSTRS, NewMexicoLL, Fan Of The Mamba, PsychedLakerGirl,Jon K
Faith, Wes, Rick Friedman, KB Blitz, EastCoastJessie, DBDH, Caliphilosopher, HobbitMage
KobeMVP888, 63 Footer, 2Phatt, MagicPhil, JohnnyP, JohnnyV, Noah, Complex_Brotha, Phred,
Jolly Rancher, Nemaia Faletogo, Jamie Sweet, ChicNStu, Wallace, ZairaAmaterasu(Goddess), P_ang
PFUNK36, STAPLES24, LakerFanInCowTown, OCIsMambaCounty, Joe Corrad, TroyB, Troy, MUD
Edwin Gueco, LakerTom, GinDC, I hearned that, Wilson24, Todd, FRMKT, J24(LadyJ24), Fearless
Art-Fl-Laker-Fan, McLyne, CornerJ, Laker-J Jefe101, CyberCosmix, Vman, Seely-Iggy, McLyne,
Tom Daniels, LakerTom, Edwin Gueco, The OutLaw & Baby OutLaw, BronxLakerFan, Mark G.
RAMNEETKB24, Adrian Palomar, Diandra, Ricky, D(erek) J(eter), London Laker, JustaLakerFan
Nostradamus, Segeboy/Sheriif, Jay_KB24, Yellow Fever, Gilbert Batung, ALLNet, J-Dizzle,Ouchhh
PatrickHenryPress, OCLEZY, LakerFan24, NBA4Ever, Raymond42N, Bay To LA, Laker Peace
RaiderLaker1980, Chad712, Alekesam, TrollMan, Sonny Belfast, G-Money, Sean,TNTLakerFan,
LakeShow,Dave M., Autoport, CornerJ
*_______________________________________________________________________*
http://tinyurl.com/262gvke - Kobe Bryant - The Worlds Greatest
http://tinyurl.com/ybowh6l _ Kobe Bryant - Greatness Personified
http://tinyurl.com/2dh8ekd__ Kobe Bryant - SIMPLY THE BEST
*_______________________________________________________________________*

What a good time for crock-pot beef stew. Too much snow to get to the store...

Usually one crock pot of stew gets 3 potatoes, 4 carrots, 4 celery stalks, etc. This time I replaced one of the potatoes with a yam or sweet potato, and it made a huge difference. The yam eventually disintegrated but it added a sweetness that is outrageously good.

Wes

And that folks is your "Cooking with Wes" tip for the day. Good morning WesJoe how are you this fine Laker Game day morning?
*
Now the dilema of Mamba24. Does he watch his hometown Bears today play for a chance to go to the NFC championship or does he favor his Lakerholic side and watch The Lakers play their little brothers the Clippers? Quite a dilema considering it's an early Sunday Laker game and we all know how the Lakers tend to do in early Sunday games. Whatcha gonna do Mamba24, whatcha gonna do?

ron ron, is really a sensitive guy. i think phil realizes he can't go public teasing artest anymore. ron ron is like a little kid. he needs to be validated that he's doing well. c'mon phil, keep giving ron ron "THE LOVE"!

I agree with other posters that Ron needs to feel needed. The upside of it is he is needed. We are not nearly as good without him - especially when he is playing as well as he has lately. There was bound to be bumps in the road. I think PJ is handling perfectly.

The Clippers just beat Miami and they beat Denver the week before. This is not a lead-pipe cinch. We are in a nice spot. Miami just lost three in a row. Dallas is fading. Denver is very good, but in turmoil. We have a chance to silence the Thunder tomorrow. We are number three in the NBA with our sites firmly set on San Antonio and Boston. If we step it up now, we can create some distance.

Motivation:
Blake – is he the “badest” b-ball player in LA? He could be thought of that way after today if we show up tired and not ready to go. Hey Blake, let’s see what you got? Welcome to the NBA!

Heat – they have 12 losses and we only have 11. Let’s stay ahead of them! Bosh looks hurt, so they may lose a few more. When you have an opponent against the ropes, it isn’t a good time to let up. It’s a good time to bear down and take them out.

Last Sunday – We showed up with a lot of energy and passion and it was a good game against a good NY team. We were nice against the Nets. I think that trend needs to stop.

Winning streak – The Lakers currently have the longest winning streak in the NBA at 7. San Antonio has won 5 in a row. Winning streaks are huge. You start to feel the momentum – nobody can beat us! We play better and better. The other team is scared of it. We will do anything to keep it going and we wind up with the best record in the NBA, home court advantage, and yes… more rings.

I think the best plan would be to come on strong and get a big lead going right away. This way we can rest the starters in the fourth and be ready for tomorrow night.

Mamba24 - you know you will be switching back and forth.

I am a Lakerholic.

Perhaps your perception about your comments is not the same as other
people's perception about your comments. i.e. maybe you're not coming
across the way you think you are. Hence: you're not being clear.

btw, one of the reasons why I post links & snippets of articles is that I'm
trying to be crystal clear. It may be a little long, but for a lot of people
it's cut down on mis-understandings.

Posted by: hobbitmage | January 16, 2011 at 12:03 AM

=====

I don't think that anyone is completely understood in here, but because of my nature not to back down to those members of the Half-Empty Club, I am probably skimmed or skipped more than most bloggers in here. Don't tell me that you don't skim many of my posts. LakerTom is about the most misunderstood blogger I have ever had the privilege to read and he writes in about as clear and concise language as anyone, including professional journalists. I skimmed one of phred's posts once and saw my handle contained therein and he stated that he skims or skips my posts, but reads yellofever's posts. So while sometimes I might come across as vague to skimmers, most of the time I think I'm very clear and I don't need to post some link that no one's going to read to support myself.

The classic example is how you and others somehow perceive me as seeing Bynum as the next Shaq when I have repeatedly referred to him as a role player for THIS team with a lot of potential should he steer away from further serious injuries. Perhaps the fact that I have also stated that without him as the Lakers starting center the past 2 seasons, we would not have won championships. Unless you read my plain English, that is a perception you have of me, which means you skim or skip my posts. There are other misperceptions as well, such as what I mean by the "practice season," a concept that I am proud of borrowing from the late, great Truefan1947, the greatest Lakers blogger of them all.

So to an extent you are right, but when someone doesn't like my blogging style, my posts will be misinterpreted and maligned. Sometimes I am vague, but normally I write in clear, succinct English. You have now suggested that I need classes in both reading comprehension AND writing. My son is an English major at SFSU and graduates in June and my brother is an English professor at the University of Wyoming, so maybe I will ask them to read my material and give me a little brush up. Right.

63 Footer

Barnes goes down and coincidentally Artest finds his game because he's getting more minutes. This is the "blessing in disguise" I talked about when Barnes went down. Let's face it, Ron-Ron needs to increase his sessions with his psychiatrist.

Let's face it, Ron-Ron needs to increase his sessions with his psychiatrist.
Posted by: KobeMVP888 | January 16, 2011 at 08:25 AM
*
LMAO!!! No, No, No! With all due respect MVP., Ron needs to ditch the psych. and let the real Ron Ron out. The new Ron was too nice and meek and politically correct. This is real good for the off-season but...It just aint gonna cut it in the cold, cruel, dog-eat-dog world of the NBA! LET RON RON BE RON RON!!!!!

What's everyone's prediction for todays game? Include points, not just "Lakes win!!". I'm gonna go with Lakes by 4, I say they do not cover spread (-5.5)

OK I shall be bold... Lakers by 8. But Blake Griffin will be HUGE!!!!!!


LMAO!!! No, No, No! With all due respect MVP., Ron needs to ditch the psych. and let the real Ron Ron out. The new Ron was too nice and meek and politically correct. This is real good for the off-season but...It just aint gonna cut it in the cold, cruel, dog-eat-dog world of the NBA! LET RON RON BE RON RON!!!!!

Posted by: Mamba24 | January 16, 2011 at 08:30 AM

What up, Mamba! I liked the old Ron, let's face it, the new Ron can hack it with reality, if the old Ron were still around, he wouldn't be playing Basketball, I can guarantee that. He's turned a corner, personally, professionally, it's not about mental health, it's about mental wealth with Ron.

Artest is an important player in the lakers starting line up.He is a good defender and a facilitator of the ball,he can raise the team intensity level which allow them to play at a higher tempo.What Artest needs to do is to allow the the game to come to him and keep moving and finding space in the offence,read the offence quickly.He can also rebound the ball as well.Artest is a similiar player to Rodman who was a great defender and a rebounding specialist,and he played with intensity,he was all over the flow.And thats one characteristic which is part of Phil's coaching philosphy.Being a laker fan we must look at the coaching philosophy and styles of Phil Jackson,why?Because he is the best in what he does,he always has the same people(coaching staff who knows the system and Philosophy) working with him,and these people have always shared in his success,eg Jimmy Cleamons Frank Hamblem and lets not forget Tex Winter.When the Bulls were winning all those Nba Championships I used to be curious about what was there approach to winning and who they were,why Phil was called the Zen Master,why did he just sit on the bench watching with his eyes wide open not saying a word to MJ and Pippen,longy and Steve Ker.What was the triangle offence and why did the media worship Phil like that?Oh' little did I knew and understand about the ZEN MASTER,TEX WINTER AND THE TRIANGLE OFFENCE,CLEAMONS AND HAMBLEM back then.

What was the triangle offence and why did the media worship Phil like that?Oh' little did I knew and understand about the ZEN MASTER,TEX WINTER AND THE TRIANGLE OFFENCE,CLEAMONS AND HAMBLEM back then.
Posted by: ninja | January 16, 2011 at 08:54 AM
*
OK, OK for the first time today I have to say it...OUT FREAKIN STANDING SIR!!!!!

Good morning Sean. Yes Ron has turned a corner but, I want him to step back and go back around that corner and put on his Ron Ron gangster mask.

Good Morning Mamba24, MVP888, 63, LRob, Lakerholic, dave, ninja, sean, Purple Heart, Lakeshowinphx , autoprt, CornerJ, bronx and the rest of the wonderful Nation...

Interesting how we are fired up about the Clippers...usually these are the games that we 'mark' as auto-wins...But this kid Blake has given the Clippers new respect...

I think Lakers win by double digits...Lakers 102- Clippers 91...Blake will go 12-10 and yes tacos baybee...

My best wish is not only the win, but Lamar has a great game, while Blake has a quiet double/double...This I hope will show the coaches that Lamar deserves to be in the ASG...

See everyone at Roll Call check in...

Lakers - The Next Generation...

#17 Coming Up!!!

I'm saying Lakers by 14. Yup, you heard that right, 14. No disrespect for the improving Clips or their mad athletic talent, but the Lakers (and Phil) mean business this time. The Clips had their shot by sneaking up on the Lakers last time. Now the Lakers are going to treat them like a serious threat...a serious threat at a time when they're starting to reel in the leaders on the HCA list. I expect them to show their little brothers that big brother is still da boss in da house.

My best wish is not only the win, but Lamar has a great game, while Blake has a quiet double/double...This I hope will show the coaches that Lamar deserves to be in the ASG...

Posted by: LEWSTRS | January 16, 2011 at 09:15 AM


Well said, LEWSTRS. It's amazing, that an opponent of Blake's hopes the same thing, a quiet double double.

It's improbable that Griffin doesn't average 20/10, you can only hope he's not himself.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that in his prime, he averages 30/15/3. It wouldn't surprise me given his steady development.

morning lewstrs and mamba24, the lakers will definitely have their hands full today..... with billy crystal and penny marshall cheering the clips on, L.A. and cmpany will have to play a solid game. the clips are going to be up for this one after their typical "let-down" after defeating a very good heat team. l.o. and griffin, great match-up today. i'm sure griffin will get his, as well as l.o.. what happened to bynum the other night? didn't see the game friday??????


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