Ron Artest 'definitely' doesn't want trade
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- His season has been filled with more downs than ups, but Ron Artest says he's still happy to be a Laker, and isn't interested in playing for another team.
Denying a report from ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Artest said Wednesday at Lakers practice that he doesn't want to be traded.
"No, definitely not," Artest said.
Stein cited a source close to Artest who said the 11-year veteran, in the second year of a five-year contract with the Lakers, is unhappy with his limited role in the team's offense, and feels he's being blamed too much for the Lakers' collective struggles. Artest, who through 49 games is averaging career lows in points (8.1 per game) and shots (7.6 per game), said he understood his role as an offensive player would diminish when he signed with the Lakers before the 2009-10 season, and difficulties in adjusting to a still-evolving role shouldn't be mistaken for discontent.
"Just because you're not comfortable doesn't mean that you're not happy," he said. "Obviously when I was on other teams, I got a lot of touches. But I'm playing with the greatest player in the history of the game, and I'm playing with All-Stars. I don't have a problem with looking bad on the court for the benefit of the team."
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Playing time has also been an issue for Artest, whose minutes are down to a career low of 27.8 per game, about five fewer than his first season in Los Angeles. He didn't play in the fourth quarter of both the team's loss to Boston on Sunday afternoon and Tuesday's win over Houston. Head coach Phil Jackson said health played a role, after Artest took a knee to the thigh in the first half against the Celtics.
"Ron's limited in his activity, simply because he got banged up in the Boston game," Jackson said. "He's really limited. He's not running freely. You can see it [in the second half against Houston] -- he couldn't get loose again. A lot of things go into this besides the speculation which you guys have going on."
Jackson dismissed the report out of hand.
"You guys know that's something we don't put credence in. Those reports have very little to do with what's really going on," he said, adding he believes life in Los Angeles suits Artest well. "I think he likes the Lakers, and I think he likes the action, and he likes the attention we get as a basketball club. I think that feeds into who he is as a person."
Artest dismissed the source's contention that he feels picked on. Jackson, however, said he understood why he might.
"He's like the new guy on the block. Sometimes that happens," Jackson said. "I understand there have been some newspaper articles about his performances. He doesn't get picked on here."
Earlier this season, when reports of an argument with Jackson during practice surfaced, Artest expressed disappointment and hurt someone would express private things publicly, particularly at a time in his career when he's committed to rehabilitating his checkered image. On Wednesday, Artest chalked up the latest story surrounding him to the team's spotty performance on the floor.
"We've lost a couple games, and people are trying to probably see what's going on," he said. "There are a bunch of stories going on with the Lakers that are false."
He certainly didn't dwell on the news this morning. Asked what he did when he heard of the report, Artest shrugged.
"I just went to get some breakfast, man, and [went] to practice," he said. "Serious. I'm gonna get some breakfast and go to practice. You can't worry about it. We won yesterday, but didn't play great so we still got a job to do here. So just come to practice and get ready, and try to work towards another banner."
Brian Kamenetzky hosts the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com.