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Andrew Bynum arrives, Ron Artest still on his way

Bynum is averaging 22.3 points in exhibition season games for the Lakers, while Coach Phil Jackson is looking for Artest, the team's biggest off-season acquisition, to step up on offense.

October 17, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

Andrew Bynum is no longer late to the party, but Ron Artest is still trying to find his way.

The big fiesta doesn't begin for another 10 days for the Lakers, though Bynum and Artest are having different experiences in exhibition play.

Bynum, never known for being first down the court, is trying to stay ahead of the ball, moving with better speed.

So far it has been so good to him, the Lakers' center averaging 22.3 points and shooting 59.5% in three exhibition games, looking more like the pre-injury Bynum than the post-injury Bynum who averaged only 6.3 points on 45.7% shooting in the playoffs.

Artest, on the other hand, is being nudged along by Coach Phil Jackson, who wants to see the team's biggest off-season acquisition take a larger role in the offense.

It was the first thing Jackson mentioned when asked what he wanted accomplished in the last five exhibition games.

"Getting Ron integrated," he said. "He still looks like he's standing around watching the other guys play at times, and he's not getting involved as much as I'd like him to be involved. I think that he's got to find his way in the post and do some things out there that exerts himself and puts pressure on his teammates to hit with the ball in the right spot."

Artest is averaging 8.3 points and shooting only 33.3% in exhibition play. He had seven points on two-for-eight shooting Thursday against the Sacramento Kings.

A scan of the box scores from last season's Western Conference semifinals shows that Artest definitely isn't shy about shooting. He was four for 19 in Game 4, four for 15 in Game 5 and six for 17 in Game 6 for the short-handed Houston Rockets against the Lakers.

"In different situations where it's time for me to be aggressive, it'll happen," Artest said. "As we become better as a team, I'll become better as a player. I'll get it right. It's preseason, too, but I understand Phil. He wants me to start getting it going now.

"I'm getting used to my teammates. I can adjust to any system."

Bynum missed 32 games last season because of a torn knee ligament but has looked fine while rapidly approaching his 22nd birthday.

"Last year after I got hurt, I was kind of behind the ball the whole time. I was struggling to get up and down the court," he said. "That's my new focus this year, trying to be in shape, trying to stay in shape and get up and down the court. It will give me the most opportunities."

By his own admission, Bynum was winded in the NBA Finals against Orlando, having difficulty staying with All-Star center Dwight Howard.

"He was making me tired," Bynum said.

Four months later, he is the one wearing out defenders.

In the first quarter against Sacramento, he made a jump hook, a 13-footer, two alley-oop dunks, a layup and was six for six from the free-throw line.

"He's completing at the basket," Jackson said.

Jackson isn't thrilled with Bynum's defense, however.

"That's an area that he's working at," Jackson said. "I'm much happier with it this year than I've ever been before. Screen-roll [defense] is an area in which it's a work in progress with him."


Is Bynum's offense taking away from Artest's scoring opportunities? Jackson doesn't think so. "That might be a possibility, but that still doesn't mean you don't figure in it as a viable part. You don't have to score, but you're a viable part because the defense is playing you and you're creating the spacing just by who you are." . . . Kobe Bryant caught the final few innings of the Dodgers-Phillies playoff game after practice. The Philadelphia native has never been partial to the Phillies and was wearing a blue Dodgers cap. . . . Lamar Odom (bruised shin) might play tonight against Charlotte, but Pau Gasol (strained right hamstring) and Luke Walton (sore back) are less likely to play. Their injuries are not considered serious.


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