Posted May 9 2010 2:37PM
SALT LAKE CITY -- U r 2 much, Ron Artest. Cuz of moments like this.
The Artest life 140 characters at a time gets more interesting by the hieroglyphic sentence, with the serial Tweeter bouncing from major offensive liability to undeserving source of sympathy from teammates to guerilla Internet hit man and back to sympathetic figure to, of all things, hero. It's been quite an emotional career... in the last week.
In the good news for the Lakers, they're the Lakers. Whatever madcap world Artest is passing through at the moment, it's nothing they haven't lived before, from Phil Jackson and his Bulls days with Dennis Rodman to years of Phil, Shaq and Kobe and really pitching a big top with three rings inside. By Jackson's own description, Artest is Rodman-light.
This was pretty classic even by Lakers standards, though: Artest about being called out by his coach, then going after Jackson via Twitter, only to have Ron-Ron's brother call it a hoax caused by someone hacking into the account, followed by Artest essentially confirming his authorship, and finally Jackson definitely confirming it.
"Ever since phil mention things about me in media before coming to me first I was weird," one Tweet read. "So every pray he can somehow close his yapper and now say AMEN."
Artest tried to explain it away by saying Twitter is for his fans, which would have been fine if not for the fact that it isn't. It's for everyone, even NBA head coaches and especially NBA head coaches whose girlfriend/owner's daughter/ head of business operations for the team happen to live on the social network.
This turned into such a big deal that the Lakers almost noticed. It was good off-day stories in the media, particularly with Artest mired in a shooting slump that had become an actual issue, but was more like a big yawn around the team. If anything, Jackson took part of the blame, saying he should have done a better job communicating with Artest and coming to understand that Artest was in an emotional place after attending the funeral of a friend on Thursday.
Saturday, after Artest went from 36.8 percent from the field in the playoffs and 16.7 percent from behind arc to 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting while making 4 of 7 3-pointers as the Lakers took a 3-0 lead over the Jazz, Bryant was asked about the situation.
"What situation?" he replied.
The Twitter thing.
"Is that a joke?" Bryant said incredulously. "Seriously? We all found it kind of funny. Not a big deal at all. Not even a whisper."
Utah's Carlos Boozer joked -- probably -- about how his coach, Jerry Sloan, would have torn Twitter down had someone tried the same thing, or at least Sloan would have after somebody explained to him what it was. Around the jaded Lakers, Artest's missives were just the latest chuckle.
The greater concern came earlier in the week, with the announcement of the All-Defense team and word that Bryant had made it for the 10th time in 14 seasons in a league-wide ballot of head coaches but that Artest had been left off the two five-man squads selected by position. Bryant called it bull spit, or something that sounded very similar, and Lamar Odom said Artest should make it every year. Talk about a lot of injustice, then -- Artest has been passed over more than twice as many times (eight) as he has made it (three) and it wasn't hard to find someone around the league who thought Artest had digressed after last season became No. 8. Odom decided players should have the vote from now on. Yeah, because coaches don't spend too much time pouring over game film, developing game plans, going through scouting reports and watching action from 10 feet away.
Artest had been wronged by his coach, had been robbed by the 29 others, had the Jazz sprinting away every time he got the ball on the perimeter, begging him to shoot, and had been caught telling his coach to zip it. Even if it was nothing more than a tremor of a week in Lakers terms, it was still a decent brewing of emotions.
"Just play basketball," Artest said of his mindset by Saturday. "Move on to the next day."
He has been like that all season, working hard to avoid the spotlight, even the good kind, wanting to play basketball and occasionally work on his music but mostly change his image and win a championship. There is a genuine sincerity about him like that, the guy that has struggled mightily through the years to stay focused on what it takes to win but earnestly wants to win.
Artest has been through this before, the Lakers have been through this before times 100, and Jackson has been through before this times infinity, with his headstrong teams in Chicago and his headstrong teams in L.A. In the press gathering before Game 3, the first 12 questions to Jackson were Artest related, despite a 2-0 series lead, despite six wins in eight playoff outings, and didn't bristle once, the way a lot of coaches would have in the same situation.
"Can't describe him in words, that's for sure," Jackson said through his yapper. "I've often said that he's very naïve. He's a babe in the woods, so to speak, in a lot of terms as far as taking things literally or sometimes understanding a situation. But, yeah, we hold him dear to our hearts."
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