Ron Artest watches Lakers lose from the bench
There were many eye-openers Sunday at Staples Center — two missed free-throw attempts by Kobe Bryant in the final seconds and a last-second three-point play diagrammed for Pau Gasol — but Ron Artest’s seat on the bench was also telling.
He sat out the final 2 minutes 50 seconds of Sunday’s game against Portland, giving way to Sasha Vujacic in the Lakers’ 91-88 loss.
“He had a tough night,” said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who didn’t like that Portland guard-forward Rudy Fernandez was too fast for Artest while coming off screens.
“Sasha was just a little better at getting through the picks,” Jackson said.
The Lakers’ main free-agent acquisition last summer has endured a string of rough outings. He made three of 10 shots against Portland and four of 10 on Friday in Minnesota. Before that, he was outplayed by Carmelo Anthony in a loss to Denver, made three of 10 shots against San Antonio and three of nine against Utah.
Artest rarely seems bothered. Sunday was no different.
“I’m more happy that Sasha went to the hole and dunked it,” Artest said, referring to a third-quarter play when Vujacic beat Nicolas Batum off the dribble and then a late-arriving Marcus Camby. “We’ve got a bunch of good players. Whether Sasha plays, I’m playing, Luke [Walton] is playing, I don’t care.”
Artest is averaging 11.2 points and shooting 41.9% this season.
Bryant said he benefited from a two-game break to rest a swollen right knee.
“The rest did me good,” Bryant said. “You can’t rest too much because you get rusty. The joints get stiff. It’s important to keep moving.”
His numbers Sunday weren’t so sharp. He had 20 points on eight-for-23 shooting in 40 minutes.
Bryant said he would play the final two regular-season games, Tuesday against Sacramento and Wednesday against the Clippers.
It’s near the end of the regular season, time for the annual Bryant technical foul watch.
He picked another one up Sunday as he went to the bench at the end of the first quarter and said something the referees didn’t like.
He now has 14 this season and will be suspended for a game if he gets two more over the next two games.
Bryant has come close in recent seasons, collecting 15 technical fouls in 2007-08, 14 in 2006-07 and 15 in 2005-06. He had 11 technical fouls last season.
All players begin the playoffs with a clean slate and are suspended for a game if they pick up a seventh postseason technical.