Lack of involvement in offense isn’t rubbing Ron Artest the wrong way
When Ron Artest slaps on the stuff that can politely be described as menthol rub, his teammates immediately frown at the pungent odor filling up the locker room.
“It smells like Bengay on steroids,” said Lakers forward Lamar Odom, shaking his head. “It clears you right out. If you had a cold or anything, you’d be all right.”
Artest’s contributions on offense, however, have been less noticeable than his medical remedies this season.
He was the face of the Lakers’ postgame celebration after they beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, sauntering into a news conference and emphatically urging reporters to “acknowledge me, please!” in his champagne-soaked jersey.
Several months later, he donated his championship ring to a charity raffle, a noble gesture for sure.
But he has been quiet on offense this season, averaging only 9.8 points a game, easily a career low if he continues in that range.
It’s nowhere near his point-scoring outburst at the end of last season, when his 12-point effort in the first half of Game 7 carried the Lakers while his teammates foundered.
Artest has been held to single-digit scoring in seven of the Lakers’ 13 games, including five points in a 112-95 victory Friday over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Not that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was concerned.
“He’s just been fitting in. He hasn’t been trying to push it,” Jackson said. “Kobe [Bryant] has been taking more of a prominent role in what we’re doing out there. He’s taking more shots and he’s been more aggressive offensively. We’ll get back to a situation where Ron’s effective too. It’ll come.”
Jackson also said Artest hadn’t been 100% in recent games, referring to a stiff back and sore left elbow.
Artest, as usual, said he cared only about his defense. His offense is secondary until further notice.
“I had my time,” Artest said. “I don’t rush it. I made so many moves off that Game 7. I’m not anxious to shine [on offense], but when that sun shines, I’ll be there.”
Bryant not amused
Bryant didn’t want to discuss the simmering controversy stemming from his appearance in a TV commercial for a warlike video game.
Bryant has been criticized in some circles for briefly appearing in the “Call of Duty: Black Ops” spot, peering around a corner and firing a rifle.
He snapped at a reporter who asked about it Friday.
“That’s a silly question,” he said, raising his voice. “Next question.”
He declined to talk about it after a follow-up question, repeating that the topic was “silly.”
Bryant has been criticized by some media members for promoting violence by appearing in the spot. Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel was also in the commercial.
Artest is as entertaining as anybody in the NBA when it comes to player interviews. Friday was no different.
He revealed that he wanted to play in the NFL when his NBA career was over. He also wanted to box.
He has never played organized football. Didn’t seem to matter.
“You only live once,” he said. “I don’t know if you live twice. I wish I could.”
Artest has, however, done some boxing.
“I’ve been training for three years,” he said. “I think I have a chance — probably not on the main level, but on the C or B level, like one or two fights. I’m definitely going to try. If it happens, good. The worst thing that they could say is that you [are bad].”
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.
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