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LAKERS FYI

Ron Artest wants to be part of the ring thing

New acquisition watches from the side while teammates celebrate last season's success.

October 28, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

So the Lakers stayed up late into the night, gazing lovingly at their new championship rings and re-telling stories of their successful playoff run.

Not quite.

Ron Artest knew what would happen before the rings were even handed out ahead of Tuesday's season opener against the Clippers, saying his new teammates were "motivated to get another one."

"Kobe [Bryant], I know once he gets that ring, he's going to put it away and look right away at getting the next one," Artest said.

Artest was in the awkward position of watching the ceremony from the bench, though he showed up with a new pro-Lakers look, getting the "L" from the team logo shaved into the back of his head. (He also inscribed the nickname of a recently deceased childhood friend on one side and, on the other side, "Lakers, World Champions" in Chinese script, according to Artest.)

The Lakers' largest off-season acquisition -- five years, $34 million -- also addressed the crowd before the game, taking the microphone near center court.

"L.A., big city of dreams, what's cracking?" he said. "We've got a long journey ahead of us. . . . I'll holler back at y'all soon."

This season will be a unique trip for him. His team is favored to win a championship for the first time in his career, and he hits an off-court milestone in two weeks when he turns 30.

One of the NBA's best defenders this decade, Artest says he thinks he'll be tested this season.

"I guess everybody's trying to see if I'm wearing down, if I'm getting slower," he said. "They'll test me out."

He didn't seem concerned.

"We'll see what outcome happens," he said.

On offense, he started slowly against the Clippers and never found his rhythm, making of three of 10 shots and finishing with 10 points in the Lakers' 99-92 victory.

Gasol sidelined

Pau Gasol did not play because of a strained right hamstring that has bothered him for more than two weeks.

He sat out the last six exhibition games because of the injury and is being called day-to-day by the team.

"We hope Friday [against Dallas] is possible," Coach Phil Jackson said. "He's still fearful about it so he needs to rest."

Jackson insists on most players practicing for a day or two when returning from an injury. Gasol might be a rare exception.

"He's the kind of player that can fit right back in," Jackson said.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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