Another fine day for Lakers’ Ron Artest

The first phone call Ron Artest received from the Lakers the day after his already legendary shot went something like this: “Where are you?”

The latest member of Lakers playoff lore didn’t think there was practice Friday morning, so he went directly to LAX for the team’s flight to Phoenix.

One problem: There was indeed practice at the team’s training facility in El Segundo. The plane didn’t leave until 3 p.m.

So it goes for the oft-unpredictable Artest: the toast of the town Thursday and fined a couple of hundred bucks by the franchise for being late Friday.

The Lakers remained upbeat the day after Artest followed up Kobe Bryant’s airball three-point attempt to beat the Phoenix Suns at the buzzer, 103-101, in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

The Lakers, along with Artest, eventually left in plenty of time for Phoenix, where the best-of-seven series continues Saturday, but not without Artest weighing in strongly, again, this time off the court.

He didn’t seem to like Suns guard Steve Nash’s quasi-guarantee that Phoenix would win Game 6 and tie the series.

“Oh, man. That’s, like, no respect,” Artest said. “No respect for us. That’s how it’s been for a long time so far this season and these playoffs — guys have no respect.”

Artest wasn’t done talking.

“Coaches have no respect for the Lakers at all,” he said. “They don’t respect me, they want me to play out of character and start jacking up all these crazy shots and not look to pass to Pau [Gasol]. They’re trying to not respect me to try to win the game. [Phoenix] Coach Alvin Gentry doesn’t respect me.

“I think there’ll come a point in time where I can earn some respect back, but I’ll wait. I’m not rushing. I have patience.”

You’d think Artest would have banked half a career’s worth of respect with his off-balance buzzer-beater, the official stats showing that he grabbed a rebound with 0.9 of second left and released a shot with 0.8 of a second left, plenty of time for it to bank off the glass and into the basket.

Instead, he was defending himself and his teammates against Nash’s observation in the aftermath of Game 5 that, “They held home court. We’ll go back and do the same and we’ll come back here for Game 7.”

“We’ll talk about it,” Artest said, referring to his teammates.

As more details emerged about Artest’s Thursday night, which concluded with a workout at a high-end health club, honestly, the Lakers looked ahead to the importance of winning in Phoenix, quickly and efficiently, unlike their back-to-back losses there earlier this week.

“We’re not making this trip over there just to fill a date,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “We’re there to win a game.”

The Lakers couldn’t be any more pleased with Bryant’s recovery from knee pain just a few weeks ago — he’s averaging 33 points, 9.6 assists and 7.4 rebounds against the Suns — but they’re hoping for more offense from Andrew Bynum (two points in Game 5) and, yes, Artest (four points in Game 5).

The Lakers would also be wise to play better defense than their last two efforts at US Airways Center, where they gave up an average of 116.5 points in Games 3 and 4.

“It’s going to be really important that we don’t go down early,” Bynum said. “Guys can’t fall asleep on ‘D’ because three-pointers really get them ignited and the crowd gets into it and then it just kind of topples from there.”

Jackson will also monitor Artest’s erratic shooting habits, which led to an in-game reprimand from the coach — a minute before the biggest basket of Artest’s career.

“I just said to him, those are the judgment, decision-making things that we’re asking you to make good choices on,” Jackson said. “He was kind of feeling bad about it, obviously, and the redemption one minute later was great for him. How else can you say it?”

Jackson acknowledged continually turning to his assistant coaches and not knowing whether Artest was going to “help us or hurt us while he’s out there.”

Meanwhile, Artest said he was in such a hurry to calm his emotions after his winning shot that he celebrated only briefly with teammates on the court before sprinting past eager family members and into a completely empty locker room.

“I ran in the locker room and tried to clear my head. Nobody in there,” he said. “So I walked back out. And I tried to see my family, but they was gone.”

Artest eventually went to Sports Club L.A. for a late-night workout, perhaps cognizant of the boos that emanated from the Staples Center crowd after he took two ill-advised outside shots near the one-minute mark in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t mind being a goat. I don’t mind being hated. I’ve been that my whole career. I don’t mind people jumping on the bandwagon, jumping off. I just focus on playing the game,” he said.


Jackson wasn’t that irritated by Nash’s postgame words: “What else is he going to say, ‘We’re going to go home and lose?’ ” … Jackson said he asked Lamar Odom to be Artest’s “guardian,” though it didn’t seem like the Lakers’ coach was sure it was working. “We have not the blind leading the blind, but probably the deaf leading the blind.”

Times staff writer Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.