Exit interviews: Ron Artest emphasizes Lakers' recent success
Plenty of the questions centered on what went wrong for the Lakers.
Why did they get swept in the Western Conference semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks? What changes need to be made this off-season? And why did Artest play so inconsistently?
But Ron Artest answered plenty of the questions during his exit interview, emphasizing the positive, noting the difficulty with the Lakers appearing in three consecutive NBA Finals and winning two of them. He defended Pau Gasol's poor postseason play, expressing optimism that he'll bounce back. And he strongly defended Derek Fisher, arguing he rarely made a mistake in the postseason.
"I'll be more than happy to go to battle with these guys again. I'm more proud of the guys. They went to the Finals three years in a row. I'm not going to speak for myself. But as a team, you think at what they've done They went to three Finals in row.
-- "I'm proud of the guys," Artest said. "What they've done and even coach [Phil Jackson], they did what people only dream of. Getting to the Finals and winning. They did what only they can dream of. When I think about that, I can't really critique what happened this year. I can only find not excuses but reasons on why they're great. It's a great group. I don't think you've seen the last of the Lakers."
Among the other highlights of his exit interview
-- Artest immediately went to the Lakers' practice facility to work out following his interview
-- Artest plans to figure out how much of his salary he's going to donate to mental health charities
-- On the Lakers' basketball mileage: "We had six people play 82 games, some who should've sat some games. I think our legs were gone. We played almost 400 games. A lot of the teams that are winning now, they're rookies and were home last year in April."
-- Why the Lakers fell short of a three-peat: "I don't like to make excuses. If I said that was the reason we lost, that was an excuse. We got swept. That's what happened at the end of the day. If I don't point the finger at myself, I'm definitely not going to include anybody, or any why we lost."
-- On his Game 3 suspension after clotheslining Mavericks guard J.J. Barea: "I don't like to dwell on things too much. It shouldn't have happened. Reaching out for a foul and the guy is 5-2, I'm reaching down. There's only so much down I can go. His face is right in my hand. It's very unfortunate. Whatever happened was unfortuante and uncalled for. That wasn't the reason why we lost."
-- On Pau Gasol: "He's disappointed in himself. But I would bet he'll come back strong. Whatever happened and however he played, I would bet he'd come back strong.
-- On the Lakers' losing early in the playoffs: "This sweep helped to move in the right direction and get hunger back."
-- On Derek Fisher: As many people talk about Fish, it definitely wasn't a reason why we lost. He's in great shape, pays attention to detail and rarely made a mistake in the playoffs. You can't see how perfect he played.
-- On his own play: "The playoffs I played good. I started off playing pretty well and defense was pretty good. I played a good role. I showed I could score the ball and that's not my role. When I came here I sacrificed money and scoring. That's what it is.
-- On playing for Phil Jackson: "It was fun. He's a team coach. There's nothing more you can ask for. He's coaching 15 guys and his No. 1 priority is the 15 guys. He did a a good job stressing to us playing together, but we didn't execute his vision this year."
Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest reflects on the season as he answers reporter's questions about the Lakers season ending and his future with the team at the Laker's practice facility in El Segundo Tuesday. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times