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Concerns about Ron Artest's distractions miss the point

6a00d8341c506253ef0153911ffe38970b-320wiSpraying cologne on a television reporter after the Lakers' embarrassing defeat to Charlotte caused a huge stink.

Tweeting about his mixtape release soon after the Lakers' loss at Cleveland sounded bad.

Considering playing overseas in Great Britain seemed more an act to land a soap opera gig than to play high-quality basketball.  

Artest's antics leave Lakers fans and possibly teammates amused when they win and annoyed when they lose. But don't call Artest distracted or complacent after winning a championship ring. Call him a well-intentioned player who has shown a mixed bag in juggling a busy schedule, which has little correlation to how he plays basketball.

"One media guy said you doing too much tv," Artest tweeted Wednesday evening. "He wants me to focus on ball everyday. Seven days a week! What's a good amount of time to focus on basketball for Ron artest in the summer. Is there a set schedule that I am missing?"

This issue always sparks debate. Artest, in a rare moment, acknowledged one time last season that "I do stretch myself thin." I also witnessed Artest before a regular-season game arriving 20 minutes late because of traffic to LA Live, where he introduced his public service announcement with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. He then rushed to Staples Center just before 6 p.m., the required time every Lakers player must be in the locker room for a 7:30 p.m. game. But should Artest struggle next season, little of it will point to distractions and most of it will point to ability.

His poor effort in the Lakers' Christmas Day game against Miami reflected more on his obsession with rattling LeBron James than on the time he spent overseeing his ring raffle. The rim stopping Artest on a fast-break dunk in the Lakers' Game 4 elimination loss to the Dallas Mavericks of the Western Conference semifinals had nothing to do with his Twitter binge. It had everything to do about his poor elevation. His career-low 8.5 points on 39.7% shooting and never-ending struggle with the triangle offense didn't mean he didn't study it and learn it. It meant he remained uncomfortable with making a mistake and struggled adjusting to his role.

Some may argue Artest could offset that by working on his game.  He does. For most days this summer, he works out for two hours focusing on his conditioning, lateral quickness and shooting. Artest works on his game so much that the team last season instructed him to scale back because they thought it contributed to his fatigue.  That routine just so happens to coincide with "Dancing With the Stars" rehearsals, efforts to legally change his name to Metta World Peace and performing standup comedy shows.

Artest should be aware that a poor season will open him up to scrutiny about his focus. But the aforementioned sideshows don't provide definitive evidence that it's distracting. Artest told Fox Sports Billy Witz last season that he recorded a song and had extensive meetings with his clothing line mere hours before Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, and we all know how that turned out.

Instead, determining  whether Artest improves next season points to different areas. His workouts: will those sessions give him enough mobility and energy to keep up with younger and faster scorers? His shooting: will his endless practicing also entail altering his stroke so he's more consistent? His role: will Artest be ready to embrace and understand any role Coach Mike Brown has in store for him?

So for now, enjoy all of Artest's Twitter rants, television appearances and various charity efforts. It won't provide a distraction, except for all of us in what could be a prolonged NBA lockout.

RELATED:

Ron Artest's daughter embracing World Peace

Ron Artest to donate money earned on 'Dancing With the Stars' to cancer research

Ron Artest striving to maintain balance with devotion to basketball and rap music

--Mark Medina

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

Photo: Ron Artest. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press / October 13, 2010

 
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