Reporting from Washington — A medical exam might show that Ron Artest had a symptom or two of intestinal flu, but there was something else factoring into his decision to skip the Lakers' visit Monday with President Obama.
Artest told teammates leading up to the event that he was worried he would feel like a third wheel. He was the only player on this season's team not on last season's championship squad.
"Ron feels fine," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Tuesday. "Two-and-a-half hour flu is what it was."
That's about how long the Lakers' White House experience lasted, including travel time.
Artest seemed healthy Tuesday against the Washington Wizards, playing 26 minutes in the Lakers' 115-103 victory. The night before the White House event, he played 28 minutes against Toronto.
Artest maintained that he wanted to accompany the team to the White House. He will not be fined for missing the event.
"I really wanted to go, too because, man, it's Obama," he said. "My daughter loves him and she's only 6 years old. I just think he's a real person."
He didn't know many details of the White House visit until a day later, when reporters filled him in on what Obama said.
"The guys said they enjoyed it," Artest said. "I'm hoping one day I get to meet him."
In other Artest news, Jackson continued to crack on the Peak shoes worn by the Lakers forward, who has had foot problems.
"I don't think those soles bend in the middle," Jackson said. "I think that's the problem. They're kind of like Frankenstein's shoes."
Jackson mocked the concept of an all-white basketball league proposed recently by a group called the "All-American Basketball Alliance."
"If they have all members of the races and they can identify them as pure, I'd like to see the All-Eskimo team and the All-Tibetan team, etc.," he said. "It's really weird."
The Times' Broderick Turner, an African American who has covered the Lakers for 15 years, jokingly said he might cover the new league if it actually formed.
"They're going to provide you with black hoods," Jackson said sarcastically.
With players and coaches still talking about the visit to the White House, Jackson offered his thoughts on the Obama administration.
"It's hard to understand or to imagine how you get the economy going again, which I guess is the biggest issue now facing everybody," Jackson said. "If you're FDR, you hope you have World War II, but who in the world would want World War III? It's just a really difficult time for this administration. They have one finger in the dike and another leak springs . . . "