Ron Artest is currently NBA JAM style en fuego. No, really.
The Lakers starting small forward, who struggled with his three-point shooting late last season*, has barely missed a shot in camp.
*Artest shot 35.5% in the regular season and 29.1% in the playoffs.
Of course, it is so much earlier than early – the regular season doesn’t start for 24 days – that it’s almost silly to mention, but … oh well.
“He’s definitely in a groove,” said assistant coach Jim Cleamons. “We were teasing him the last two days before we left because of (how hot he was) on Thursday, and today he was on fire again. Let’s hope he saves some of that for the regular season.”
Cleamons, not wanting to jinx Artest, declined to actually analyze why the shots were falling like rain drops in London (is it his form? Getting his feet set? New stroke?), but had this to offer: “All I know is his shot is, as they say in the vernacular, ‘wet’ right now.”
After a full practice session on Thursday afternoon, the Lakers players, coaches and staff gathered at an LAX terminal to check in for a 10-odd hour journey across the Atlantic to London. Derek Fisher wouldn’t need those sunglasses in the United Kingdom.
The American Airlines 777 plane was Andrew Bynum to the team’s usual charter’s Muggsy Bogues, boasting a massive engine like the one pictured as team spokesman John Black boarded the aircraft. The players and coaches sat in the first class section, while team staff, sponsors and the Lakers Girls held down the back sections.
At 11:40 a.m., or 3:40 a.m. in Los Angeles, the plane landed in London. It was no surprise that clouds of rain were present to welcome the players, many of whom slept for at least a portion of the flight. It was a quick departure off the 777, with the players boarding one bus that took them straight to practice with the intention of loosening up some muscles that may have grown stiff across the journey.
London’s Heathrow airport is on the extreme west side of town, while the team hotel is all the way east, prompting a bus ride straight through the heart of the city, during which the bus/tour company man gave a modified tour. He pointed out the most expensive new apartment complex in downtown London, the penthouse of which he said sold for 120 million pounds, near the famous Hyde Park. Other sights included the London Eye on the River Thames, and the Tower of London (pictured).
For a more detailed look at the trip, particularly before takeoff at the terminal, check this video on Lakers.com.