Artest (Finally) Feeling Healthy

Ron ArtestIt wasn’t until Jan. 24 in Toronto that we confirmed Ron Artest had been suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet.

It wasn’t until Friday evening in Philadelphia that Artest admitted that the pain had been there dating all the way back to the previous season.

Fortunately for both Artest and the Lakers, the pain finally seems to be subsiding.

The evidence could be seen on the floor across L.A.’s last three road wins and in particular during L.A.’s 99-91 victory over the Sixers (he scored 18 points and locked down Andre Iguodala) and heard off of it.

“I started to feel good in Toronto,” said Artest. “Ever since Toronto I’ve been running really fast, and moving. Just moving. Even in the game where I had two points (Indiana), I felt great.”

Artest explained that while playing for Houston last season, he had torn two ligaments in his ankle but decided not to rest as he was not only trying to help his team, but because it was a contract year and he was determined to put himself in the best position to help his family.

“I played on bad ankles, and (the pain) went from my ankle to the bottom of my heel right to the bottom of my foot, and it kept on going from there,” he said. “I rested in the summer time, but I never really addressed it.”

Artest credited L.A.’s training staff with its great job in helping him rehabilitate the injury this season, all the way through his breakthrough in Toronto. He couldn’t have been happier to get his legs back; in fact, he had gone so far as to question his age.

“I’m like, ‘Is it fixable? Am I just getting old?’” said the 30-year-old small forward. “But (now) I”m able to play hard. I feel almost like old Ron, like I might be able to get it back.”

The best evidence, to Artest, came during the Washington and Indiana back-to-back games this past week, when he was still able to run well despite heavy minutes. He said that L.A.’s trainers continue to help him with the bottoms of his respective feet so he can carry his weight, and it’s working, particularly on defense.

“I couldn’t chase anybody that was coming off a curl, and that was a problem,” he explained. “I wasn’t able to really pressure, but ever since my feet have been feeling well, I’ve been able to pick up (defensively), run and cause havoc defensively. It’s great, I’m just happy that (athletic trainer) Gary (Vitti) helped me.”

The 18 points he scored against Philadelphia were key to L.A.’s win, as the first 10 helped overcome Kobe Bryant’s slow 1-of-7 start, and the last six were back-to-back three-pointer in the final three minutes that sealed the win. But it was his three steals and lockdown defense of Philly’s best player, Iguodala (3-of-7 from the field for eight points) that really impacted the game.

Yet as Artest revealed, his goals are simple.

“I don’t care about the points at all, I just care that I can run and cut hard,” he said. “Stop short, move again, hustle, chase hard off down screens, that’s all I care about.”

There’s another explanation, however (at least in Artest’s mind), to why his defense hadn’t been as good as it once was. In both Houston (especially after Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming went down with injuries) and in Sacramento, he was asked to handle the offense. But with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Artest said all he has to focus on is “hustling.”

Now that his feet are finally feeling good, he can do just that.