The Lakers signed Ron Artest for very specific reasons: LeBron James, Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony.
They wanted a strong small forward to take on the NBA's bigger small forwards. Artest seemed like a good fit.
Listed at 6 feet 7 and 260 pounds, he outweighed his predecessor, Trevor Ariza, by 50 pounds and brought a reputation as one of the league's top shut-down defenders. Anthony is listed at 230 pounds, James weighs 250 and Pierce is 235 pounds.
Fast forward to Friday, and Artest's first test this season against a top veteran forward.
Anthony had been off to a solid start for the Denver Nuggets, averaging 30.2 points, fourth in the league before Friday. Against the Lakers, he had 25 points and made 11 of 20 shots in the Nuggets' 105-79 victory.
He also said he was the reason the Lakers signed Artest.
"I think so," Anthony said before the game. "I think they do a great job just focusing in on getting the ball out of my hands and making somebody else score the basketball or win the game.
"They won it last year, don't get me wrong. But they feel much more complete now getting Artest. I would too, though."
Does Artest make him nervous?
Anthony smiled and responded: "Huh!
"I said they feel more complete. I wasn't saying nothing about me."
Anthony had a slow first half, scoring only seven points and committing three fouls to go with three turnovers. He played substantially better in the third quarter, scoring 12 points as the Nuggets took a 23-point lead. Artest had to sit down near the midpoint of the quarter after picking up his fifth foul.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was optimistic beforehand that Artest would be a defensive force.
"Carmelo's outweighed our guys in that position by 30, 40 pounds," he said. "Kobe [Bryant] asked to play him three, four years ago and [Anthony] got a big second half on him and had a lot of fun at Kobe's expense. Trevor used speed on last year, we used a variety of defensive mechanisms to hold him in check, but Ron's a guy that really can physically stand up to him."
Friday obviously wasn't Artest's night.
A fairly important player, Cleveland's James, said nobody, including him, should wear No. 23, out of respect for Michael Jordan, a move that would be comparable to pro hockey's action when Wayne Gretzky retired -- no NHL players are allowed to wear No. 99.
Jordan's coach during his six-championship run approved of James' opinion.
"That's a good idea," Jackson said. "I think it's a great thing that hockey did that for Gretzky. We haven't seen this happen in basketball. It'll be maybe a little step on the toes for a guy like Magic [Johnson] and [Larry] Bird, who made this era a bigger era [so] that Michael could come in and have the dominance that he had and also the commercial appeal that went with it. But he certainly is a standard that we all admire."
The Lakers don't have a No. 23 on their roster, but almost half the teams in the league do.
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.