Artest tweets critical of Lakers coach
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Ron Artest has made a point to make his inaugural season in Los Angeles as controversy-free as possible, stonewalling reporters time and time again when asked about his individual effort and turning the conversations to focus on the Lakers as a team.
Artest's Twitter feed, @RONARTESTCOM, is a different story.
Late Thursday night, Artest's account posted a string of tweets expressing frustration with Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
The first unedited tweet, posted at about 9 p.m. PT, read: "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."
The next unedited tweet, posted approximately an hour later, read: "Ever since phil mention things about me in media before coming to me first I was weird . So every pray he can somehow close his yapper."
At Friday's practice, Artest would neither confirm nor deny that the tweets were his, even though his brother, Daniel, wrote on his own Twitter account, "Whoever hacked [Artest's] twit page is foul," hours later.
"I'm never upset at my coach," Artest said Friday. Artest would also not verify his brother's claim that the account was hacked, either, saying, "You got to call him."
When a reporter began to paraphrase the tweets and asked him why he would have tweeted what he did if he wasn't upset, Artest said: "No, no, you have to read it exactly. That's exactly what I said? If you can't get it exact, then I can't answer it."
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When Artest was further questioned about it, he avoided the question.
"I'm here to talk about basketball, basketball, all basketball," Artest said. "Twitter is for my fans, not for [media]."
The tweets were first reported by the Los Angeles Times. When Artest was shown a copy of the exact tweets Friday after practice, according to the Times, he acknowledged them and said, "I'll handle it."
After Friday's practice, Jackson said he was not aware of Artest's tweets, but refuted the notion that he spoke only to the media about Artest's struggles instead of telling him face-to-face.
"I've been very upfront with him about his 3-point shooting," Jackson said with a smile.
In eight playoff games this season, Artest is shooting 7-for-42, or just shy of 17 percent, on 3-pointers, causing Jackson to tell reporters during the first-round series against Oklahoma City that the 6-foot-7 small forward needed to cut down his attempts from beyond the arc, especially from the corners of the court.
"I'll talk to Ron about it, I know he's sensitive about it," Jackson said. "I had a player once who was one of the great bench players in Toni Kukoc who was 2-for-29 [on 3-pointers] going into the Finals and I used to kid him all the time about his percentage and he ended up hitting like four in one ballgame against Seattle in the Finals. So, you know, we expect him to break out of it at some point, but he's got to be discriminative in what's a good shot and what isn't."
Jackson, who described Artest as a "na´ve, innocent lamb" during the first-round series against Oklahoma City said, "I guess he might be a little sensitive," on Friday.
"I usually tell the truth," Jackson said of his thought process behind commenting about his players to the media. "I usually don't pull punches, so, I mean, a person has to withstand that. If they're hearing it on TV in front of a massive audience, they must understand that their coach saying it to them will be probably a little bit more harmful, a little more hurtful perhaps. They have to be tough enough to take that and move on."
Artest has been known to use several Twitter accounts, including @ThugRaider37 and @Basketball_Ron, but when asked if they are still active accounts that he uses, Artest said, "I don't really know, I can't tell."
Artest's third posting Thursday night began some repair and justification with improved grammar and syntax, "Its just something that I have to get use to. He is a different stlye coach. Just bad timing during playoffs and midseason for me!!"
The timing of the postings seemed peculiar, considering that the Lakers have won four games in a row, Artest's field goal percentage had risen from 34.4 percent in the first round to 42.3 percent in the second round and several members of the Lakers, including Jackson, spoke out after Thursday's practice in support of Artest's defense after the 11-year veteran was snubbed from the NBA's All-Defensive first- and second-teams.
"I'm not worried about the defensive player of the year or the defensive teams," Artest said Friday. "That's not the reason I became a Laker, to get an individual award. I'm still going to play hard. I can't be no more motivated than what I already am."
Artest's final tweet on Thursday night read: "I think right now the team is improving so we just need to keep building or moving ahead or forward. Locking down etc...."
The Lakers play Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals Saturday in Utah.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.