There’s no need to tip-toe around Ron Artest, well, unless you are trying to hide from him on the court.
Directness, it appears, is the best approach when venturing into the verbal world of Ron-Ron. He’s the man with the new Mohawk, the man trying to use his considerable will to propel the Rockets into the third round.
But first, there’s the matter of the second round. Mr. Defense turned into Mr. Offense on Monday night, throwing a considerable wrench into the Lakers’ game plan in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal, helping beat them, 100-92.
Artest had a strong first half, with 12 points, and continued to apply the pressure, finishing with 21 points. He went eight for 15 and had seven assists. The Rockets had lost to the Lakers in all four of their regular-season meetings.
So file this one in the brimming Be Careful What You Wish For file.
Much was made of the Lakers wanting this particular matchup in the playoffs. And almost as big a deal as Artest having said that Portland’s Brandon Roy is the best player he has faced.
Artest was asked before the game in the Rockets’ locker room whether he was concerned those words would add motivation into the arsenal of one Kobe Bryant.
“Kobe’s already motivated. He had 81 points in a game, and I didn’t say anyone was better than him over that time,” Artest said. “He don’t have to do much to get him motivated. He just wants to win.”
Never any regrets for this outspoken Rocket.
“Yeah, I never go back on my word,” Artest said. “I’m not like other people. Some people probably go back and say, I didn’t mean to say this. I’m like a different breed. I’m a different breed.”
After all, what is the worst that could happen to Artest and the Rockets? Bryant could very well pour it on and who hasn’t seen that countless times around here.
“I’m cool with that. He went wild a lot of times too,” Artest said. “He always goes wild. That’s nothing new. I guess if he goes wild that’ll be exciting for the fans. I’m still breathing. I’m good.”
Artest did get off a good sly line when talk turned to LeBron James being named most valuable player on Monday, saying, “I thought Brandon Roy was gonna get it.”
Artest expanded on his admiration of Roy and said it was more a reflection of his view of the new era, the new kids on the NBA block.
“I’m finished looking up to Kobe. That was a couple of years ago,” Artest said. “There’s new young guys in there to look up to now. Like Brandon Roys and LeBron James and Dwyane Wades and O.J. Mayos. I would like to give those guys a little confidence.”
Artest mentioned his own age a few times. He was asked if he felt 29.
“There’s guys younger than me that can’t play defense like me,” he said. “So I guess I feel 19. I know I feel young. But I seem old. People make me look old. They always talk about the 2010 class. All these young guys, ‘Hold on I’m still here. Can I get another contract please?’ Am I that old?”
Give round one to the ‘old’ guy.