With all the employees the NBA has laid off recently, you’ve got to think there’s space at league headquarters for Artest’s file to get its own office. His 73-game suspension from 2004 — which cost him about $7 million in wages — is the high bar for any sport.
This season, the Lakers are hoping that Artest stays low-key in pursuit of a championship, especially with Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant (and perhaps Chuck Person) to police him. Artest was generally on his best behavior last season with Houston and another coach he respects a lot, Rick Adelman. Even when he lost it and tracked down Bryant on the playoff court last season, Artest didn’t go so far as to get suspended, just ejected.
That said, Artest has no qualms with maintaining his street cred is truly credible. He is proud of what he stands for, and actually so is childhood friend and new teammate Lamar Odom. It was notable that Odom said the other day that he loves the knowledge that if someone takes a shot at him in a game, he is absolutely certain that the next play or next opportunity Artest will dropping whomever took that shot at Odom with a hard foul or clear statement.
That’s the part of Artest that makes another NBA suspension, however small, a constant possibility this season. For some reason I also have the feeling that the emotional Odom — even though he said when showing off his boxing training the other day that he would never fight on the court — might overstep the line somehow in some place now that Artest is right there with him.
With Lakers center Andrew Bynum deciding to scale back his work with assistant coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and with former Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis -- who also spent plenty of time working with Bynum -- taking the head coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Coach Phil Jackson said he'd spend some time working with Bynum.
"My own focus is going to be in that direction because Kurt was really the guy that spent a lot of time with him, working on some of the details of his game," Jackson said.
Jackson joked that "just about everybody on my staff wants to have a piece of Andrew," meaning that assistants Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons all will work with Bynum.
Jackson said Bynum has been running the court pretty well during training camp and that his condition looks good.
At least, that's how I interpreted the following comment from Jordan Farmar about his appearance on tonight's episode of NUMB3RS: "I talked to the producer and he said it turned out really good."
I'll let you people decide if I'm reading too heavily between the lines.
What can't be disputed, however, is that Farmar really enjoyed his second appearance on the program. Dude got the A-list treatment, complete with a dog-friendly trailer. He also got a SAG card, which he hopes to parlay into more screen roles down the road. But the Bruin doesn't plan on just playing himself for the rest of his theoretical career. He'd takes classes and really attempt to perfect his craft. Taking the lead of former Laker Rick Fox, if you will.
I also tried to prompt a good-natured jab from Jordan about his one-time co-star Pau Gasol, but alas, the bait went untouched.
Should Farmar throw his hat into Hollywood's ring, he'll need to get used to going mano y' mano against various actors for the best roles. Time spent scrapping for minutes against Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown should help prepare him for that experience. At the very least, it'll lead to an ability to smoke the Shia LaBeouf's of the world on a treadmill and in the weight room, since that's what it'll take for him to match Fish's fitness regimen.
As one might gauge from a report far centered so much on Farmar's prime time efforts, this was something of a slow day at practice, with little in the way of pressing Laker-centric news. There wasn't so little, however, that folks should cling to scraps and turn Phil Jackson's praise for the training camp hopefuls into a weekend of BK and I getting peppered with questions about their prospects of making the team. With the possible- and I emphasize "possible"- exception of Mickael "I've actually played in the NBA" Gelebale, I'd be stunned if any invitee was on the roster come "ring night" against the Clips. Not trying to be a buzz kill. Just being honest. But hey, a compliment from a Hall of Fame coach is a compliment from a Hall of Fame coach, so congrats to all.
After hearing Phil talk about Kobe Bryant's offseason, uncharacteristically light on workouts and heavy on relaxation, I asked Mamba what "taking it easy" constitutes for an infamous fitness freak. Waking up at 5:30 instead of 4:30? Limiting the workouts to a mere three hours? Climbing to the top of a smaller mountain to yell "Drago!!!" As it turns out, "taking it easy" means, quite literally "taking it easy," but not without purpose.
"The rest really became part of the work out, you know what I mean," said Kobe. If you don't allow your body to recuperate, you're just gonna end up doing more harm than good. I really had to look at it that way.
Oh, and check out the camera work as Kobe gives a tour of his bad pinkie! When Farmar eventually reaches "above the title" status and has the juice to hand pick his film's director of photography, I think we all know whose phone will be blowing up.
More from Phil. In light of news about Andrew Bynum and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar no longer working closely together, I asked if any coach in particular will take on a mentoring role with Drew. "Just about everybody on my staff wants to have a piece of Andrew," grinned PJ. "I think everybody will have something to say. Particularly, my own focus is going to be in that direction, because Kurt was really the guy who spent a lot of time with him working on some of the details of his game."
An important detail often overlooked in this story. Drew and CAP's relationship may have been higher profile, but Drew probably spent more time working last season with Clark Kent. In other words, we were sort of heading here, anyway.
There's also some funny stuff where The Zen Master (I'm pretty sure) jokes about not coaching the first preseason game in Anaheim. "Is it televised?" grinned PJ.
Coming off his first NBA Finals MVP performance, the Lakers' 11-time All-Star did something different this off-season: nothing.
No Olympic obligations. No international basketball duties. Just a lot of downtime.
He went with his family to France and also did promotional appearances for Nike throughout Asia. He picked up a basketball a little before his 31st birthday in August. It seemed as if an eternity had passed.
"The season ends so abruptly. You're used to going every day, and then it stops," Bryant said. "So you're kind of looking around for stuff to do."
If boredom was the punishment for not playing ball, Bryant's now feeling the reward.
"I feel fresher, healthier, as healthy as I've felt in a long time," he said. "I haven't had a chance to take a month and a half off in quite some time."
A year ago, Bryant and Pau Gasol were given several days off in training camp to help them ease into practice after long runs with their respective Olympic teams. (Bryant helped Team USA win gold over Gasol's Spanish national team.)
Bryant didn't need to ease into anything this October.
"He's looked very good and carried the energy of the corps down the floor, up and down," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
Training camp two-a-days end today, and the Lakers play their first exhibition game Wednesday against Golden State in Anaheim. . . . Jackson said he might not coach that game, though he appeared to be joking with reporters. Jackson sat out an exhibition game last season in Anaheim because of soreness in his legs. . . . Reserve center DJ Mbenga has been slowed by a hip flexor, limiting his practice time. "It happened this summer while he was training with the Belgian national team," Jackson said.