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Ron Artest discusses concept behind new reality show

June 7, 2011 |  8:04 am

What with daily two-hour workouts, expressing giddiness over the hiring of a new coach and engaging in weekly sand-ball pickup games with fans, Lakers forward Ron Artest seems to be making the best of his offseason.

"The gym work is going well," Artest said in a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times ' Lakers blog en route to a taping an episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live," slated to air Thursday. He said he's been working out frequently with reserves Derrick Caracter and Trey Johnson. "I'm going to come back another player. I'm excited to play for Coach [Mike] Brown. There's nothing to complain about."

Well, there are a few things. Artest would rather be playing in the NBA Finals right now instead of tweeting about the Miami Heat-Dallas Mavericks championship series.  And as enthusiastic as he is about discussing the concept behind his upcoming reality show, "Last Second Shot," where he talks with prisoners and parolees about changing their lives, there's one statistic that continuously bothers him. And it's not his  career-low 8.5 points per game during the 2010-11 season. Artest is concerned about overcrowding in the prison system. The L.A. Times' Tim Rutten recently noted that California's 33-prison network, designed to hold 80,000 convicts, in fact holds 143,435 inmates. 

"My whole goal one day is to cut the jail system in half with the amount of inmates in there," Artest said. "Just cut it in half and see what we can do and how we can work together and fall back to education, because right now America is losing that education battle around the world. You take it step by step. You don't try it overnight. It might take 20 to 30 years. It might take a long time, but we'll continue to work together." 

It sounds like Artest is running for office, but he's just outlining the vision he has for his reality television show that's slated to begin filming sometime this month with 44 Blue Productions, which already produced MSNBC's "Lockup," a documentary series that focuses on the U.S. prison system. As an extension of his work with mental-health issues that ultimately earned him the 2010-11  J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, Artest plans to visit correctional facilities with mental-health experts and talk to inmates.

The show hasn't been picked up by a network yet, but Artest is spending part of his summer filming enough material for eight to 10 episodes with confidence that it'll spark interest.  Artest's own history adds some intrigue. Although he's moved well beyond them now, some memorable incidents in the past hurt Artest's reputation. In 2004, as an Indiana Pacer, he was involved in the Malice at the Palace, when he went into the Pistons crowd after beer was thrown at him and punched a fan. In 2007, as a Sacramento King, Artest pleaded no contest to misdemeanor domestic abuse, earning him 100 hours of community service. In other words, this show is no "Khloe & Lamar." Though it should be noted that Artest says he watches the reality show featuring teammate Lamar Odom and wife Khloe Kardashian frequently. It wasn't clear if he was serious.

"I watch Lamar's show every night," said Artest, who added that his wife, Kimsha Hatfield, planned to be in a separate reality show. "I love the Kardashians. I feel like they're family. I feel like they're one of my best friends. I know Khloe, Kim and Rob. They all make me feel like family."

Still, Artest hopes for more substantive subject matter in his new show. But, like Odom, he's been met with concerns that this venture will be simply an off-court distraction. Artest tweeted to fans, "everyone assumes cause I do other things Im not focused on bball? I work out 2 hours everyday. Dont u do other things when u leave work?" He then later mentioned how his only shoot during the 2010-11 season was for a music video for his rap single, "Go Loco," following the Lakers' triple overtime win March 22 over the Phoenix Suns when the team had time off the following day. Artest also scrapped earlier plans to have a reality show during the 2010 NBA playoffs because he said former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson asked him to hold off on filming.

"I didn't want to upset Phil," Artest said, "so I was thinking of a concept of just doing it during the summertime."

That time is now, and Artest hopes to become part of the solution in reducing overcrowding in the prison system.

"A lot of them wish they weren't in there and knew they made mistakes," Artest said of the convicts. "It's reality. Most of them aren't going to get a second shot, and most of them are going to get turned down with landing a job. So rather than feel like they're not wanted in this world, I want to make them feel wanted and needed because they can help a 12-year-old kid that grew up just like [them] that are on their path. They need to hear what not to do."


Lakers' Ron Artest to star in reality TV show

Ron Artest's reality television show features him rehabilitating ex-convicts

-- Mark Medina

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