Phil Jackson, Ron Artest, and the Never-Ending Quest for Motivation

Last year, Artest was the black-sheep brought in to give the defending Lakersan edge. Had he imploded last year, people were lying-in-wait to blame Artest for the Lakers’ failure to repeat. Sometimes Artest played exceptionally well and sometimes he didn’t. In the end though, it was Ron Artest who drove the stake through the heart of the Celtics black hearts, and the rest is history.

This year Artest has been struggling. I think it just comes from him not wanting to step on toes. He knows he’s still under a microscope and has never said anything negative about the team. Artest, has been without a doubt, nothing but a team-first guy since he has arrived.

I think that’s why Artest took offense like he allegedly did when he confronted Phil during practice. I’m sure he got tired of Phil picking on him, while Artest has largely kept his mouth shut.

When I first heard about the encounter, I won’t lie, for a second, Carmelo Anthony in Forum Blue and Gold flashed in my mind—but I quickly came to my senses.

Phil Jackson has pushed things through his bowels that possess more knowledge of NBA coaching than I could ever hope to acquire—but I like to think that Phil knew exactly what he was doing. I think he wanted to get Artest to erupt—to get his edge back.

Artest hasn’t been in-form all season. He’s never taken a minute off mind you, but his offensive game has been struggling, and on the other side, he seems to have lost a ½ a step when guarding quick players on the wings.

You’ve all read articles about how Phil yearns to understand the inner-workings of his players and their minds—that way he can pull from them their best performances and discern positions they thrive in—and I think he’s recognized Artest lost what made him great: his edge.

Ron Artest blowing up on a coach in practice probably wouldn’t even have been Tweet-worthy, had Twitter existed, in 2004. Obviously, Phil doesn’t want to see Artest exploding on him every day—but I think he grinned inside when Artest finally broke down and erupted.

Next: Working Out The Kinks

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