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Lakers' Ron Artest goes from sideshow to main attraction

T.J. SIMERS

He ditches the wacko hairdo, and he's not the crazy, wild-looking three-point shooter anymore, putting in a solid effort in Game 5.

April 27, 2010|T.J. Simers

If things had continued to go badly for the Lakers on Tuesday night in Staples Center, here's the really bad news, they would have Ron Artest under contract for four more years.

They still do, of course, but today everyone in town feels better, every player a hero, the Lakers monsters once again with Artest standing out, but only because he chose to fit in.

The wacko hairdo is gone, and while it's really much ado about nothing what color he might choose for his rock head, he's not the crazy, wild-looking three-point shooter anymore.

And gosh, he was awful, three for 23 in the first four playoff games, a career .355 shooter from long range during the regular season, .296 in 48 career playoff games -- and 13% with the Lakers.

What's this, he can't handle the postseason pressure? Not a good thing for someone who aspired to be a Laker.

As it is, he's replacing a guy who hit almost 48% of his three-point shots in 23 playoff games for the Lakers last year, Trevor Ariza's contributions vital in the Lakers' championship run.

Had the Lakers continued to stumble against the Thunder, Derek Fisher already gone as a free agent, much of the local attention would have turned Artest's way, and is this guy ever going to fit in?

"At some point you have to stop, give it up,'' said Coach Phil Jackson before Game 5 -- his inspiring words to Artest when it comes to shooting long.

Instead of asking him to practice more, Jackson said, "We've asked Ron to limit his three-pointers from the corner; those haven't gone down.''

But knowing Artest, Jackson added, "I know he'll probably take one.''

First three-pointer he attempted, you bet, from the corner, but this one went in because he let the game come to him. He already had four assists in the bank, shooting a three to end the first quarter with an exclamation point -- lifting the Lakers to a 15-point lead.

In three quarters of work, playing more time than any other Laker in that time, he hit six of 11 field goals, including two of four from long range, and four more years of this wouldn't be so bad.

At the very least, it's a start.

MY IDEA of a really noisy crowd is sitting next to Plaschke and being unable to hear him. The folks in Staples still have some work to do.

NBA COMMISSIONER David Stern threatened to come down hard on anyone criticizing referees, which prompted Jackson to criticize Stern as well as the referees after Kobe Bryant failed to get to the free-throw line in Game 3.

So how did Jackson avoid getting fined?

"I'm not going to answer that,'' Jackson said. "I'm tempering my irresponsible tongue.''

IN HIS pregame chat with the media, Jackson said he's been trying to lighten the mood what with his team somber and the rest of the city flipping out.

So when he was asked if he was curious to see what happens on the court, he said tongue in cheek, "I'm not curious. I'll stay in the locker room and watch the other game. All right, I'll come out there. Why not?'

SOMETIME DURING Game 2, Jeanie Buss asked the following question in a tweet: "If you see a guy you know is dating a certain girl and he shows up at the Lakers game with another girl, should you say something?''

It's been a week, and no answer as of yet.

DEAR MARK,

I love reading your NBA columns even when you are completely off your rocker -- like you were this week, you Kobe apologist you.

You had Kobe injured, while I had him pouting in the first quarter of Game 4 and showing everyone what happens when he's not involved in the scoring -- still remarkably immature at times.

Pau Gasol wanted the ball inside, said so and combined with criticism, some coming from Jackson, that Kobe was taking too many difficult shots, Kobe just shut it down.

Not the first time, as you know.

One of the greatest scorers in the game made absolutely no move to score in the first quarter.

He tried to get his teammates involved, all right, but as Jackson said Tuesday, "he probably over did it too much.''

I wasn't sure where you were sitting so I couldn't tell if you were one of those who insists on yelling "MVP'' every time Kobe steps to the free throw line.

How can anyone do that when one of the great scorers of all time shuts it down, a playoff game getting away from his team and he doesn't take his first shot until 9:06 left in the half?

And you an NBA expert, everyone, including Donald, knowing the value you place on upholding the integrity of the game. And yet you give Kobe a free pass.

The way he played Tuesday -- there's nothing wrong with this guy.

Sincerely, T.J.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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