Ron Artest sees the commotion caused by newlywed celebrity Lamar Odom and internationally recognized Kobe Bryant, and thinks, "This is a media circus? Really?"
He chuckled when asked whether the goings-on at Lakers training camp are a distraction.
"I'm always trying to be in the media anyway. I'm always trying to do things to stay out in the public, stay relevant," he said. "That's my history, of being a distraction to the team."
Two days into camp, there have been plenty of diversions, none involving Artest.
Odom is followed by paparazzi on a routine basis thanks to his nuptials with reality TV personality Khloe Kardashian. Spaniard Pau Gasol draws plenty of international interest, and Bryant will always be hounded by reporters. (In fact, there were two spats between media members who crowded around Odom and Bryant for interviews Tuesday.)
Artest almost seems amused by not being the top draw. He's not even winning the trash-talking battle on the practice court.
"Josh Powell's the biggest trash-talker," Artest said. "Kobe's second. I'm trying to get third."
Artest and Bryant are both alpha-types in the locker room, but Artest is deferring to Bryant. There's no doubt which player is the newcomer to the Lakers and which one is starting his 14th season with the franchise.
"Everybody's hungry because Kobe comes in here and he leads by example and everybody follows," Artest said. "We all have to be on the same page as Kobe. It doesn't really matter how I feel. It really matters how Kobe feels."
Artest, with Bryant, figures to give the Lakers one of the league's top perimeter defenses.
"He's getting in there and mixing it up," Coach Phil Jackson said. "I think Ron's going to fit very well."
Said Bryant: "He looks good. He's moving extremely well. He looks like Ron."
Kobe 'The Dream' Bryant?
Bryant met recently with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon and picked up some pointers in the post from the former star of the Houston Rockets.
"I'm a post player anyway," Bryant said. "I'm a guard, but 80% of the time I'm in the post. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can. It makes the game fun."
Olajuwon was deadly with his array of moves down low, including fadeaways, up-and-unders and baseline spins. He told Fox-26 TV in Houston that Bryant was a model student during their on-court session.
"It was so much fun because how he picks it up," Olajuwon said. "I worked with him for two hours, step by step. Adding those moves to his game, watch out for him this year. I understand his dedication, his desire to win and stay on top."
Bryant answered with a smile when asked to discuss the possibility of replacement referees calling NBA games.
"Not without saying something that's really a [smart-aleck] comment and then getting fined for it," he said.
The NBA and referees' union are trying to hammer out a new labor agreement, though replacement officials are expected to be used if a deal is not reached by the start of the season.
"Everything will be OK," Bryant said. "There's a business component to everything. I'm sure they'll work something out."
Bryant said every teammate came to camp in "great" shape. "It doesn't look like anybody was kind of resting on a championship," he said. . . . Former NBA sharpshooter Chuck Person is at training camp, helping out as a shooting coach. Artest has worked with Person in the past.