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2010 Exit Interview: Ron Artest

artest1Ron Artest saved his best games for when L.A. needed them most in the 2010 playoffs, putting up 20-5-5 while limiting Paul Pierce in the clinching Game 7 of the Finals, scoring 25 points in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and tipping in the game winner of Game 5 against Phoenix, not to mention defending the opponent’s best offensive threat throughout.

He averaged 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals in the regular season, and 11.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals in a postseason in which his primary responsibility was on D.

Below are the highlights of his exit interview:

- Artest opened his session by discussing his experience at CNN (while raising money for the oil spill). He was offered congratulations from Alyssa Milano, which to him was crazy. “I grew up (watching) her on “Who’s The Boss!” Artest explained that he has had a terrific time since winning his first ring, and couldn’t be more appreciative of those that helped him get it, and cheered him on.

- (On seeing how happy his teammates were for him): “It felt good because they were all pulling for me. I don’t know why I (put so much pressure on myself). I was playing with pressure the whole year. I wasn’t afraid to attack it or fail. I would just go back in the gym and get better. Playing the right way was the hardest thing for me. Playing how Phil Jackson wanted me to play. Not negative clashing, but our styles clashed … and that was good because we were trying to work towards the same goal.

- (On his meeting with Phil Jackson and Mitch Kupchak): “Just ways to get better. Just gotta come back ready. I’m not playing for a contract. I’m playing to improve. I want to improve until I can’t improve no more, and I’ve been doing that for the last couple of years. I haven’t been able to show that in my last two years.” Artest was referring to his focused role on the Lakers, with defense the top priority, and how he came off the bench in Houston willingly during a contract year, hurting his numbers and perhaps his contract.

- Artest said he was ultimately happy with his role because it helped the team win.

- (On his transformation from a few years back): “Oh man. It’s amazing. Just like Game 7 … it was just like this big storm, and I was probably the most relaxed (despite) having never been to the Finals.” Artest said that he used to be in the center of the storm when everything was all negative – some of it was his fault, some not, he explained – but that he stayed the same person throughout. He feels like it’s turned around because he’s been true to himself.

- Artest reflected on how the brawl in Detroit hurt his game: “I had a perfect game, off the dribble right, off the dribble left, spin moves. (After getting suspended) I put on some weight, didn’t quite feel comfortable the next year. Then in Sacramento … etc … I just didn’t have the same confidence again. My confidence now, after Game 7, is through the roof. But that doesn’t mean I have to shine. I’ll just be ready to help (next season). In Game 6 I found myself again and it carried over to Game 7.

- Ron on Phil: “I hope he comes back. His whole philosophy is team. I was getting better at the end. I had a great last week (in the triangle).” Artest added that he’s going to use the summer to get more comfortable with the offense.

- (On the defensive focus, and wearing out the man he’s guarding): “I didn’t give in this time. I played defense for the entire playoffs and did put an imprint on the game. They said they wanted some defense and I think I brought it. I can see it but I already know it’s going to happen. If you only have one day in between, I can wear you out. Especially if I start attacking you at the offensive end.

- (On Derek Fisher): “He’s unbelievable, I don’t care what anybody says. He’s a great leader. He’s going to play big when it counts. He becomes the second best player in the league when it counts.”

- (On what he learned about Kobe after a season of playing with him): “He reminds me of myself. Every team I was on I was always the hardest worker … I didn’t know what to expect from Kobe. I saw for myself he’s the hardest worker. He’s the franchise. He would practice every day if he could, but with injuries he couldn’t. When he was out there, he was the hardest worker, defensively and offensively. And getting to the gym at six in the morning. I’m like, yeah, that’s who I want to lead me. I don’t like to be lead by non-leaders. I’m not going to let you lead me (otherwise). I don’t have a problem saying, ‘Your franchise player sucks.’ I felt more than honored to have Kobe lead me.”

The Lakers on Jimmy Kimmel Live

For the second season in a row the Lakers made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live as the reigning NBA Champions. Click below to see all five parts.


Ron Artest Postgame 7 Quotes

60789947The 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).

60788306Q. 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.

60789399Q. 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.
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Artest Remains Focused on Durant

60288704Before the First Round series between L.A. and Oklahoma City began, the most intriguing individual matchup pitted one of the league’s best scorers, Kevin Durant, against one of basketball’s preeminent 1-on-1 defenders, Ron Artest.

Fun for everyone watching, no doubt.

After five games, it’s hard to think of another situation in which two people would be so close to one another in a two-hour span, Artest so determined to intercept, impede and frustrate each and every movement of the third year forward.

While Durant’s had his moments, there’s no question that his production has been limited by Artest, who fights through every screen, tracks every cut and follows each of Durant’s body movements.

From his regular season averages, Durant’s scoring is down 5.3 points (30.1 to 24.8), his shooting percentage 9.4 percent (47.6% to 38%) and his three-point percentage 9.8 percent (36.5 to 26.7), while his turnovers are up from 3.3 to 4.2.

Durant’s best scoring game came in L.A.’s 95-92 Game 2 victory, in which he managed 32 points on 12-of-26 shooting, while he grabbed a series-high 19 rebounds in OKC’s 101-96 Game 3 win.

Meanwhile, Artest is the first to point out that he hasn’t been too worried about his offense, as witnessed by his 8.4 points on just 35 percent shooting, though he did have his best offensive game in Tuesday’s Game 5 by posting 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including two three-pointers.

Still, Artest’s focus into Game 6 in Oklahoma City, when the Lakers will try and shut the series’ door, remains on Kevin Durant.

“I’d like to slow him down for the whole series, but tonight’s a different night, so we’ll see,” said Artest.

Tune in to 710 ESPN radio for a 6:30 p.m. tip, or watch on KCAL/9 or ESPN to see for yourself.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter (@LakersReporter) for live updates throughout the game.

Artest 6th, Bryant 12th in Defensive POY Voting

D072184014.jpgDwight Howard won his second straight Defensive Player of the Year Award on Tuesday morning, as announced by the NBA, while two Lakers – Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant – finished sixth and 12th, respectively.

Artest garnered seven second place votes (three points) and six third place notches (one points) for a total of 29 points, while Bryant garnered one second place vote and six third place nods for nine points.

Here’s the list of those receiving at least seven total points (five for first place, three for second, one for third)

Dwight Howard, 576 (110 first place votes)
Josh Smith, 136
Gerald Wallace, 113
LeBron James, 61
Rajon Rondo, 55
Ron Artest, 29
Andrew Bogut, 23
Thabo Sefolosha, 20
Anderson Varejao, 18
Dwyane Wade, 13
Marcus Camby, 13
Kobe Bryant, 9
Shawn Marion, 8
Tim Duncan, 7

Artest Goes Rodman for Orlando

Taking a page out of former Phil Jackson forward Dennis Rodman’s book, Lakers defensive stopper Ron Artest got a little work done on his hair.

The night before the Lakers take on the Magic on Sunday at Amway Arena in Orlando, Artest explained on his Twitter page that he had the word “defense” worked into his newly-died hair in three different languages (Hindi, Japanese and Hebrew), and in Purple and Gold.

Below are the pictures he posted:

artest_2

artesthair

Follow Mike Trudell on Twitter: @LakersReporter

Artest Going Streaking … On Defense

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Phil Jackson needed just one word to describe Ron Artest’s effort against Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets after L.A.’s 95-89 win on Sunday: “remarkable.”

High praise from Caesar, indeed.

In our postgame wrap of the Lakers win, we detailed Artest’s performance:

Sparking that defense was the terrific individual effort from Ron Artest, who was draped so close to Carmelo Anthony all night that ‘Melo may as well have worn cologne named “Ron Ron.” Anthony made only 7-of-19 field goal attempts, turned the ball over eight times and fouled out while trying to create space from Artest late in the fourth quarter. Artest tied a season high with six steals, and even went off for 17 points himself (’Melo had 21) thanks in part to four 3-pointers, plus four boards and four assists.

Not bad.

“It was just about playing decent and a lot of effort,” explained Artest. “(Anthony) is definitely one of the better players in the NBA, but when I am hungry I don’t really worry about the offensive players even if they have a good game. I know that if I am doing my job, we should be OK.”

Artest, citing improved conditioning due to his trimming more than 10 pounds (and counting) off his frame, also pointed out that he’s held the last six individual offensive players he’s faced since the All-Star break below their respective averages, which is a constant goal for the Queens, New York, native.

TO READ THE REST OF THE STORY, HEAD OVER TO OUR PRACTICE REPORT

Artest Doing It From Distance

59491155Among the reasons Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak was eager to get Ron Artest into L.A.’s doors in the offseason was the forward’s solid three-point shooting.

And after a slow start, Artest has gotten hot from distance, improving to 40.1 percent from three-point range to lead the Lakers:

Lakers Three-Point Percentage (minimum 50 attempts):
1) Ron Artest – 40.1
2) Sasha Vujacic – 35.8
3) Derek Fisher – 35.0
4) Jordan Farmar – 34.7
5) Shannon Brown – 33.3
6) Kobe Bryant – 32.7
7) Lamar Odom – 29.5

Artest has been particularly hot in February, nailing 8-of-13 attempts, including three straight big ones to turn the tide of L.A.’s road win in Portland on Saturday:

Artest Month-by-Month From Three
October/November: 39.1 percent
December: 32.7 percent
January: 43.1 percent
February: 61.5 percent

Among a few explanations for Artest’s increased accuracy is his improved understanding of L.A.’s offense – thus, where to get his shots – and his improved health, which he detailed after the Lakers win in Philadelphia on Jan. 29.

Artest, a career 34.7 percent shooter from three that shot 39.9 percent last season, currently ranks 23rd in the NBA in three-point percentage; the No. 10 spot (42.9 percent) is well within range particularly if his shooting trend continues.

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.

Artest Suffering From Plantar Fasciitis

Phil Jackson acknowledged before Sunday’s game against Toronto that Ron Artest is suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet.

“We haven’t had any conversation about sitting out, but if it continues, he may have to,” said Jackson.

Artest, who generally prefers not to discuss his injuries, is averaging 11.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists while leading the team in three-point shooting at 39.6 percent, boosted by his 3-of-3 from distance against the Knicks on Friday.