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LAKERS FYI

Ron Artest becomes more offensive this week

After a slow start to the season, the Lakers' forward finds a little rhythm with his shot against Cavaliers and Warriors.

January 12, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers forward Ron Artest, who has had his share of struggles this season, has played better on offense during the last two games against Cleveland and Golden State.
Lakers forward Ron Artest, who has had his share of struggles this season,… (John G. Mabanglo / EPA )

Reporting from Oakland

The Lakers have tried to reestablish a defensive presence in recent weeks. They also might have rediscovered Ron Artest.

The small forward has seen an uptick on offense this week, shooting with more confidence and showing an improved knack for finding open teammates.

It was notable in the Lakers' blowout victory Tuesday over Cleveland, Artest handing out six assists and scoring 15 points, his biggest output since an 18-point effort Nov. 11 against Denver.

He handed out a season-high seven assists Wednesday against Golden State and scored 10 points, including a key three-pointer with 1:55 left in the Lakers' 115-110 victory.

Are these merely small blips on the stat sheet for a player averaging eight points a game? Or is this the start of some momentum for the guy who saved the Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last June?

"I hope so," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Wednesday. "When Kobe [Bryant] becomes a distributor in a ballgame like he was [Tuesday] night, it changes a team's defense or approach to a game and opens up a lot of avenues for people. I think Ron stepped into that opportunity [Tuesday] night very well."

Jackson sensed greater self-assurance in Artest's game.

"Defensively, his attention is great," Jackson said. "It's about his shot a lot of times, whether he feels comfortable with it, whether

he's got rhythm in it. [Tuesday] night, he caught the ball on the move a little bit and wasn't standing flat-footed."

Artest said he hadn't felt anything different this week.

"Not at all. I feel the same way I felt this whole season," he said.

Oh, that's why

Artest is known as a notebook-filler, a guy who always gives reporters something to write, even on the most boring days.

So it was no surprise when he started revisiting his actions in the New York game on Sunday, acknowledging he was off his game. He picked up a flagrant foul for grabbing Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire and making contact with his face while trying to foul him.

"There's just so many pictures being painted when I see that New York uniform," said Artest, who grew up in New York. "I felt like it was street ball. I definitely felt like I was back at 119th and 2nd Avenue. It's just New York City. Street ball. Blacktop.

"It knocked me off my game. When you see a Knick jersey, it got me off my game a little bit."

They're back

The Lakers will see a pair of familiar faces Friday when they play host to the New Jersey Nets.

Jordan Farmar will get his championship ring before the game, and Sasha Vujacic will play against his former team for the first time since being traded last month.

Farmar, the former UCLA Bruin, is averaging 9.8 points in his first season with the Nets after four with the Lakers.

Vujacic was dealt after averaging only 1.8 points and 4.9 minutes two months into his seventh Lakers season. He is averaging 11.2 points and 27.3 minutes in 12 games with the Nets.

"He's enjoying his opportunity in New Jersey to explore with his game and do the things that he's looked forward to doing," Jackson said.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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