Grizzlies guard Tony Allen and Lakers forward Ron Artest try to track down… (Mark Weber / Reuters )
Reporting from Memphis, Tenn. — —
Lakers forward Ron Artest has been known to lose control of his temper, his past often linked to that fateful day when he went into the crowd and punched a fan more than six years ago near Detroit.
He hasn't lost control in a game since joining the Lakers, though he certainly wasn't thrilled about being accidentally popped in the face Monday by Marc Gasol after stealing the ball from the Memphis Grizzlies center.
Artest ran all the way to the other end of the court, took a knee and put his face in his hands. He then gave Gasol the stare of death as he walked to the bench during a timeout, the referees tracking every step.
Kobe Bryant checked with Artest a couple of times in the huddle, tapping him on the head, making sure he was keeping his cool, as did Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person, a longtime confidant of Artest.
Gasol apologized to Artest when the timeout finally ended.
When Artest doesn't want to talk about something, he'll say he doesn't remember what happened, a tactic he employed with reporters after the Lakers' 93-84 victory.
Eventually, though, he started talking.
"Once I got my head cleared and they plugged me up a little bit, I got out there and kept playing basketball," Artest said, referring to longtime trainer Gary Vitti. "He stuck something up in my nose, some mushroom-type thing. It expands."
It was a nose plug made of cotton, the Lakers said, though Artest's nose didn't look too straight.
"It looks a little bit crooked," said Artest, who was also hit in the mouth. "I've just got to ice it and hopefully it's not broke."
The Lakers said it wasn't broken.
It could have been an awkward situation for Lakers forward Pau Gasol. He is Marc's older brother but also Artest's teammate.
"When I saw his nose, I saw he got hit pretty bad," Pau Gasol said. "Obviously, he was upset that he got hit pretty good. I think it was the third time he got hit in the face tonight. Obviously, he didn't appreciate that very much."
The Lakers thought Artest handled himself the right way.
"Ron knows how to remove himself from situations like that," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "He got out of there instead of standing in and getting in a confrontation … that could contain any problems."
Said Bryant: "We have a relationship where even though things may get a little crazy for him, I'll go up to him and check on him, make sure he's all right."
Bryant, however, said Artest didn't always have to stand down.
"It depends on the situation," Bryant said. "I'm not opposed to him smacking somebody. I'm really not. Because they know that he's not going to respond, they try to take advantage of it sometimes. I'm not opposed to him smacking somebody."
Not on Monday, though.
"I didn't want him to beat up Pau's brother," Bryant said.