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Lakers forward Ron Artest is about to get more chances

With Matt Barnes out until March because of torn cartilage in his knee, there will be plenty of minutes for Artest to claim. Coach Phil Jackson expects Artest is looking forward to the challenge.

January 09, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan

Lakers forward Ron Artest oozes uniqueness and seeps entertainment, so it's easy to affix the word "interesting" to anything he does.

But the next couple of months will be interesting for a different reason. They're a chance for him to reclaim a season that has slipped away from him.

His playing time and scoring are down, though that will change with Matt Barnes out until March because of torn cartilage in his right knee. Barnes said he would be out eight weeks, leaving plenty of minutes for Artest to claim.

In fact, Barnes was averaging 20.8 minutes a game and was often Coach Phil Jackson's choice at small forward instead of Artest in the fourth quarter.

Jackson thinks he knows how Artest will handle the challenge: "I think Ron will look forward to it, actually. I don't think he'll be pressured at all. He knows that it's been kind of a cruise this year so far, so he'll step in."

Artest didn't have a great game offensively Sunday against the New York Knicks, scoring six points on two-for-nine shooting in 34 minutes. But he was feisty.

After making a shot in the second quarter, Artest nudged Landry Fields and was less subtle in pushing Shawne Williams, which earned him a technical foul. Artest also was hit with a flagrant foul after trying to grab Amare Stoudemire and making contact across his face on a third-quarter drive by the Knicks forward.

"He was coming in really fast and he's so explosive that if you don't grab him and hold him, that happens," Artest said.

Beyond extra time for Artest, the Lakers have other ways to cover for the loss of Barnes, who will undergo surgery Tuesday.

Kobe Bryant will play more often at small forward and Luke Walton will also sop up some minutes. As a last resort, rookie Devin Ebanks was brought up from the Development League after five games with the Bakersfield Jam.

Jackson expressed confidence in Walton — "He just knows how to play" — and also said Ebanks was athletic enough to help out.

Then Jackson acknowledged the Lakers would miss Barnes' energy level.

"He creates a lot of easy shots. He's the kind of kid that we don't have to run anything special for him," Jackson said.

Said Barnes: "I'll be all right. I got the kids running around. They'll keep me company."

No thanks

Former Dodgers Manager Joe Torre is reportedly considering an executive job with Major League Baseball, but Jackson couldn't envision working for NBA Commissioner David Stern.

"Thank god for Montana. It's a place I go hide out," Jackson said, jokingly referring to the location of his annual summer retreat. "However, his son Eric is an assistant to the governor of Montana and he got me up there during the off-season to speak. I may not be able to hide away from the NBA or David Stern."

It was then suggested that Jackson could recoup some of the money he'd lost via numerous fines if he joined Stern's office.

"I could live on retirement on my fine money," Jackson said.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.

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