The man Phil Jackson called Game 7′s most valuable player was not Finals MVP Kobe Bryant or impressive-as-ever Pau Gasol, but the only Laker without a ring, Ron Artest.
Thanks in large part to his 20 points, five rebounds, five steals, clutch three with 1:01 left in the fourth quarter and defense on Paul Pierce – holding Boston’s No. 1 offensive option to 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting – he has one now.
Artest also offered among the most colorful, honest and rambling press conferences ever after the contest:
Q. Two parts: 20 points, five rebounds, five steals, seems like you had your hand in every play for the Lakers tonight. Is that why you came here?
RON ARTEST: Oh, man, first I want to say, you know, that God put me in a situation before I go real crazy, got put me in a situation, and I want to thank Him for the blessing, a Game 7, home court advantage. We give away Game 2, or I gave away Game 2. Game 7, you go to bed, I want to thank God for this blessing to be here.
And the one thing I said earlier was when I was younger, I bailed out on my Indiana team. I was so young, so egotistical, and I bailed out on Donnie, Larry, Jermaine, Tinsley, Foster, who never bails out. He just fights for you, for his team. Stephen Jackson who already had a ring, continued to fight for us, et cetera. I feel sometimes like a coward when I see those guys, because it’s like man, I’m on the Lakers and I had a chance to win with you guys, and I feel almost like a coward. I never thought God would put me in this situation again because of that.
So I’m blessed, and I totally forgot the question you asked. (Laughter).
Q. 20 points, five rebounds, five steals, seems like you had your hand in every play for the Lakers tonight. Is that why you came here?
RON ARTEST: Well, Game 3 we won, I had two points. I always tell people it’s about the total points. If I have two or three rebounds and play 40 minutes but we won the Game 60 40 or something like that, what did we do as a team, not what I did. A lot of people are asking me when are you going to step up, score 40, do this, do that. What did we do as a team? It doesn’t matter what I did. Tonight was one of those nights where I had 20 points, and I still think we did that as a team.
We fought together. This was one of the best games of I don’t even know, man. I don’t want to be in a game like this. Where the game came out either way on our own floor and the game can go either way, and I’m just like, okay, what did I get myself into. What did I get myself into. Honestly I’ve got to thank my doctor, Dr. Santi (phonetic). She would come and help me relax in these moments because usually I’m not good at these moments, and I know that about myself. You know, so what do I do to be good at these moments? You figure it out.
And I needed some type of way to relax during these moments. I missed a couple threes that I was wide open that I wish I would have went down and I trusted everything she told me as far as relaxing, and bam, the big three goes in. I didn’t even realize I was really in Game 7, I was so caught up in the game itself. I’ve been telling you guys that for a long time now.
Q. Forget the second question. Just say “Queensbridge.”
RON ARTEST: Jeff Van Gundy, please, when you see this, say “Queensbridge.” So I’m so happy right now, I don’t know what to say, man. I don’t know.
Q. You played a lot of minutes tonight.
RON ARTEST: 46 minutes tonight.
Q. Back in Boston, you struggled, the team struggled, and it looked like the gravity was too much for you at the free throw line at a key moment, didn’t go in, didn’t execute. At a moment when the gravity seemed to be affecting Kobe and Pau and of course the defense of the Celtics, you were the one who stepped in and started to carry the load.
RON ARTEST: I didn’t trust what my doctor told me at the free throw line. I want to be good at those moments because you want to make the NBA, you want to be good. There’s certain things I’m not good at, but I want to be good because I want to win. I didn’t trust myself in those games, and I wouldn’t tell you guys that, not at that time, because then people will feed off that. I didn’t trust in myself at that time at the free throw line, I was disappointed. But I was still alive, we had two more games, and I trusted myself today. I missed one free throw out there and then made a big shot and had a lot to do with relaxing and playing basketball, playing hard, bouncing back. The history of me in the playoffs, which I need to get better at, is playing more consistently throughout the playoffs. The history of me in the playoffs is I have a two good games and then I have a bad game and maybe I might win a Game 6 or lose like last year in Game 7, and that’s something I want to improve on, also. Todays is one of those days where I trusted in myself and I didn’t settle for some shots. I kind of at the right time did exactly what Coach wanted me to do.
I just got to thank Coach Jackson for having me and Kobe and the Lakers for giving me this opportunity, and I’m really, really just enjoying this, and I just can’t wait to go to the club.
Q. Kobe had you guys’ backs so many nights this year, game winners, scoring big. What does it mean for you guys to pick him up like you did tonight?
RON ARTEST: Kobe wants to win. What you saw in Boston Kobe wanted to win. People said he wasn’t passing, blah, blah, blah, but Kobe wanted to win and he didn’t know if he could win playing with us at that time. He wanted to win as a team, though, not going off on his own. Today he wanted to win, he didn’t want to lose. You saw a determined Kobe Bryant, Black Mamba, two four, who wanted to win, but it wasn’t with the team. Late in the second half he started to move the ball and attack and pass and still was Kobe Bryant, and he trusted us and made us feel so good and he passed me the ball. He never passes me the ball, and he passed me the ball. Kobe passed me the ball, and I shot a three. He’s a Zen master, so he can speak to you, and he doesn’t need a microphone, you can hear him in your head, “Ron, don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” whatever, pow, three. I love the Zen, though.