Artest gets defensive with new 'do

KSPN AM/Beto Duran

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Ron Artest is going to make a splash in Game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, if not for his defense than certainly for his new hairdo.

Artest traded the muddled orange-colored coif he'd been sporting since last week for a fresh platinum blond 'do with wavy designs shaved in and colored bright purple that he debuted at the Lakers' shootaround Tuesday. Artest also has a blond soul patch and purple goatee.

"I was doing it during the regular season a little bit and I felt like I needed a haircut so I said, 'Let's go get a haircut, why not have a little fun?'" said Artest, who told reporters after Game 1 he had plans to add more color to his head in the playoffs.

The NBA announced Tuesday Artest finished sixth in defensive player of the year voting. Orlando's Dwight Howard finished first. Artest received seven second-place votes and eight third-place votes from the panel of 122 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Kobe Bryant finished 12th, receiving one second-place vote and six third-place votes.

"These guys have better defense than me?" Artest asked when told Tuesday afternoon that Howard, Atlanta's Josh Smith, Charlotte's Gerald Wallace, Cleveland's LeBron James and Boston's Rajon Rondo finished ahead of him in the voting. "Have fun guarding Kevin Durant."

Despite holding Durant to 7-of-24 shooting in Game 1, Artest sounded like he was still figuring out the Thunder's third-year forward, calling him a "different type of player" and alluding to the challenge of guarding the 6-foot-9 Durant and his 7-5 wingspan.
"He's tall," said Artest, who is 6-7. "He's not worrying about me blocking his shot."

Artest admitted he wasn't consistently dominant on defense all season long until he started an intensive running program to lose weight after the New Year.

"I probably would have been higher if I had been lighter for the whole season," Artest said. "Next year I'm definitely going to come in lighter. I always wanted to play at 280 [pounds] and it just didn't work for me defensively. So, I was 270 and during the season I lost 20 pounds which is pretty much unheard of. Then I came back and I'm now almost in my prime defensively."

Artest, who won defensive player of the year in 2003-04 as a member of the Indiana Pacers said he could have won it several other times if not for incidents such as the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills that sidetracked his career.

"I had my chance but I got suspensions and all this other stuff, I'm not really into individual accolades anymore," Artest said. "I had my chance to have two or three of them."

Injury updates

D.J. Mbenga, who visited Artest's barber last week for a blond 'do with a star shaved into the back of his head, will be re-evaluated Tuesday to determine if he'll be available to play in Game 2 after undergoing emergency laser eye surgery Saturday to repair a retinal hole in his left eye. "D.J. is an afternoon decision, we'll see if the doctor clears him to play," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. … Jackson said Jordan Farmar, who strained his left hamstring a week ago against Sacramento and was walking with a slight limp before Game 1 against Oklahoma City, "seemed fine."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.