Ron Artest lauds Dallas Mavericks' title run and Mike Brown's coaching philosophy
On paper, it appeared to Lakers forward Ron Artest that the team's Western Conference semifinals matchup against the Dallas Mavericks would prove to be just another blip toward another championship run. It turns out he was wrong.
"They blitzed us," he said Sunday while appearing on ABC 7's Sports Zone regarding the Mavericks' four-game sweep against the Lakers. "We did not expect them to play like that honestly. I thought we were going to sweep them."
On paper, it appeared to Artest that the Miami Heat would win in the NBA Finals in either five or six games, believing the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and the team's lockdown defense would prove too difficult in stopping. Instead, James disappeared most of the fourth quarters, Dirk Nowitzki continued to make difficult shots and the Mavericks displayed the type of depth Artest argued is needed to win a championship.
"If they played more team ball, they would've put more pressure," Artest said of Miami. "But Dallas had them, They had their number. Miami wasn't utilizing the whole five on the court and Dallas was hungry."
And on paper, it appears to Artest that the Lakers hiring Mike Brown will prove out to be a good hire. Though he conceding thinking that Brian Shaw would've gotten the position had the Lakers three-peated, Artest touted Brown's defensive credentials when playing for him as an assistant coach at Indiana and Brown's ability to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals and two separate Eastern Conference Finals appearances.
"I think it's a good move," Artest said. "He basically got LeBron to the championship to Cleveland and they didn't really have a great team."
It may be comforting for Laker fans to hear Artest speak glowingly about the Lakers' new coach especially since Kobe Bryant has still remained silent on the issue ("he's not obligated in his contract to come out and say anything," Artest argued). But Artest's positive outlook on Brown might be equally discomforting for Laker fans since Artest's horoscope on Dallas and Miami didn't come true.
That's why Artest's funny personality and jovial tweets have masked his internal frustration ever since the Lakers' 2011 postseason run ended. Even with organizing pickup sandball games with fans, being a victim of a prank on Jimmy Kimmel Live and promoting his new reality show, "Last Second Shot," Artest admitted he hasn't been in the best of moods.
I was salty," Artest said about watching the Mavericks-Heat matchup. "We had a chance. But I don't think we played the right way. We lost. So I didn't really care who won."
That doesn't mean Artest wants wholesale changes. He largely argued that the Lakers' quick unraveling pointed more to the heavy basketball mileage the team accumulated after three consecutive NBA Finals appearances. He touted the necessity of playing team ball, a quality he believed the Lakers lacked against Dallas. And Artest remained coy with former WNBA star Lisa Leslie when asked if the Lakers had any locker room turmoil.
"If it was, I wouldn't tell you," Artest said with a smile. "Whatever happens in the locker room, stays right in there."
Coming off a season that entailed a mixed performance in offensive and defensive consistency, Artest didn't appear overly concerned however with his own play.
"I don't worry about my athleticism," said Artest, though his failed attempt at a fast-break dunk in Game 4 provided a lasting image of the team's struggles. "Jason Kidd isn't jumping that high these days. Larry Bird wasn't jumping that high when he had All-Star status. But you got brains and can still play defense, score in the post and knock down open shots."
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Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest goes for the steal against Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki in the first half of Game 1 on Monday night at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 2, 2011