Ron Artest felt slow and sluggish, very much unlike the defender he used to be.
"I'm trying to get my defense back to what it was a couple of years ago," the Lakers forward said Wednesday. "I think I'm on the path. The second half of this season and then next year, I should be one of the best defenders."
Artest was slowed this season by plantar fasciitis -- painful swelling on the underside of his feet -- but also took a look at something else: his diet.
He weighed 266 two months ago. He kept thinking how he weighed 245 when he was the NBA's defensive player of the year in 2004.
So he stopped eating late at night and promised himself he would stick to a diet that was 95% fish and vegetables.
With his plantar fasciitis under control, he is also running more often and at unusual times.
When the Lakers arrive in a city for a road game, he'll hit the treadmill for 45 minutes at the team hotel, even if it's before the second game of a back-to-back situation. When the Lakers return from a trip, he'll log another 45 minutes on the treadmill.
He used to run sparingly in 30-minute increments, but said the extra dedication and the added 15 minutes per session paid off. He recently got down to 249 pounds and is now in the low 250s, he said.
"I think the running has helped me shed a lot of weight," he said. "That was the key, a 45-minute run. A 30-minute run wasn't doing it.
"I'm moving quick. I think the last four games I've played good defense. It started with [Corey] Maggette in the fourth quarter then it went to [Paul] Pierce and then to Rudy [Gay], when I held him below his average. I held Shawn [Marion] a point below his average, although he's not a big scorer."
The recent gains have been incremental.
Maggette scored 17 points in the Lakers' victory over Golden State last week, three below his average. Pierce had 11 points in the Lakers' loss to Boston, almost seven below his average. Gay had 17 points in the Lakers' victory in Memphis, three below his average, and Marion's 10 points were indeed one below his average in a Lakers loss in Dallas on Wednesday.
Artest, 30, is in the first season of a five-year, $34-million contract he signed with the Lakers after averaging 18.7 points a game his last three seasons (two with Sacramento, one with Houston).
He has come to grips with no longer being a consistent scorer, averaging only 11.6 points this season.
"I'm not a scorer," he said. "I'm not averaging 20-something points a game. I'm not expected to come out and get those type of numbers. It's just not that type of team. I could have no points the whole game and if we win, I'm cool with that."
Coach Phil Jackson gave the Lakers Thursday off after back-to-back road games.