The Los Angeles Lakers are on a roll, winning four straight playoff games heading into Utah Saturday night. After being tested in the first round by an up-start Oklahoma City Thunder squad, the Lakers have held home court en-route to a 2-0 series lead over the Utah Jazz.
All has been quiet in Los Angeles since Tuesday night’s 111-103 victory over the Jazz. Things are going too smoothly in “La La Land.” With four days between Games 2 and 3, someone must have the free time to stir things up or give the media a nugget of controversy.
Enter Ron Artest and his Twitter feed, @RONARTESTCOM. Artest tweeted Thursday night: "Finally Phil Jackson didn't mention me in media before talking me Now I can build on game 2. Hopefully he talks to me before the media." Maybe this is boredom, maybe Artest simply doesn’t have a good relationship with Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson.
Jackson is notorious for motivating players in his own unique way. His methodology generally involves slighting a player in the media, not a sledgehammer to the head, but more subtlety, often just a quick “jab” reference to one weakness or missed assignment.
Friday after practice, Jackson slyly brushed off Artest’s comments, saying he was not aware of the tweets, but offered a contradiction to the notion that he was talking to the media before meeting with Artest about any team matters.
Artest has been a model citizen in Los Angeles, often going out of his way to frustrate the media with his lack of opinion or mundane interviews after games. Given Artest’s conflicted past, this newly aloof demeanor relating to the media can be viewed by the Lakers as a positive step.
During the Lakers playoff run in 2010, Artest has averaged nearly 36 minutes and collected 3 rebounds per game. Artest has often been matched up against the opposing team’s best offensive player to give Kobe Bryant some relief on the defensive end. He has defended well, but his rather pedestrian 7-42 (16.7 percent) shooting performance from beyond the arc, just may be the thorn in Jackson's side. The “Zen-Master” ultimately would prefer Artest to concentrate on his defensive assignments and leave the shot-making to Kobe and Pau Gasol.
Artest has the ability to score early and often, but his 9.1 points per game average during the playoffs is a testament to the true reason he was signed in the off-season— his defense. Rebounding, blocks and assists are great to fill up the stat-line, but shutting down the opposition’s best player is Ron Artest’s number one responsibility.
Any knowledgeable Lakers fan recognizes the subtle tactics that Jackson employs to motivate—a small comment, maybe a little poke to see if a player is listening. Ron Artest is on the team, he talks to Jackson daily. Maybe it’s time he reads between the lines and recognize what his coach is doing as we all do. I’m just saying!
The Lakers are two games up and head into Utah tonight to place a strangle-hold on the Western Conference Semifinals. Artest will do his duty, Kobe will be Kobe, and Phil Jackson will look for the next motivational tool to push his team to another NBA Championship.
Let me hear what you think Laker Nation and comment below.