Gingerly, Ron Artest wobbled over to the basketball rack Thursday and picked up a ball, blinking as he began to dribble.
He began to shoot, measuring each shot. He walked to another basket and began the same process, each time seemingly searching for his touch.
The Lakers had said earlier that Artest participated in some on-court basketball work during practice Thursday, but that he experienced dizziness and was forced to curtail his activity.
Artest has sat out the last three games after a suffering a concussion Christmas night from a fall down a flight of stairs outside his home in Brentwood.
The Lakers play the Sacramento Kings tonight at Staples Center, but Coach Phil Jackson said that he was “very doubtful” that Artest would play.
Artest didn’t speak with the media, preferring to get up extra shots instead.
But the team said he saw a neurologist again Thursday and will see another one today.
“He’s pretty stiff in the shoulders and stuff,” Jackson said.
Since Artest has been down, the Lakers’ defense has suffered.
The Lakers twice gave up 118 points -- season-highs -- and lost one of the three games Artest missed, and had to go into double-overtime to defeat the Kings last Saturday.
“We miss him, he’s a starter,” Jackson said. “We miss him, but . . . the bench is adjusting.”
It’s more than Artest’s one-on-one defensive skills that the Lakers have missed.
He is averaging 1.3 steals a game, but Artest also is averaging 4.0 assists, second-best on the team.
“Not even just because he’s . . . supposedly our best defensive player in terms of his physical presence, but his mentality is also infectious,” point guard Derek Fisher said.
“Just his mentality in terms of playing physically, boxing out, going after guys, scrapping for loose balls, those are things that you can’t replace. . . . [Those are] some of the intangible things that Ron brings to our game. We’re definitely missing those things.”
The thought first came to Jackson back in July, the idea of playing a big lineup.
Jackson could envision playing 6-foot-6 Kobe Bryant, 6-10 Lamar Odom, 6-7 Artest and seven-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol all at the same time.
In the last three games, because Artest has been out, Jackson has started a big frontcourt of Odom, Bynum and Gasol, but it hasn’t produce the results Jackson would like.
“It’s gotten off to some pretty slow starts,” Jackson said.
So, would he consider changing his big lineup?
“I might,” Jackson said. “I’ll think about those things [Thursday] night.”
After dropping 44 points on the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, Bryant has overtaken Denver’s Carmelo Anthony as the NBA’s scoring leader at 30.4 points a game to Anthony’s 30.
Bryant has had seven games this season in which he has scored 40 points or more. Last season, he scored 40 or more four times.
“I’m just going to work,” Bryant said. “At this point in my career, me scoring 40 points is just a luxury for us to have. It’s not something that we have to do for our survival or anything like that. It’s just I can do it.”