Ron Artest Steps Up, Lakers Get Unlikely ‘W’ in Portland

Artest has always had offensive pop to go along with his defensive prowess, but his role on the Lakers doesn’t involve calling his own shots or running isolation plays. When he scored a game-high 21 points last year in Portland, it wasn’t out of the ordinary with Bryant and Bynum out of the lineup. Someone had to step up. Last night however, with Gasol in foul trouble for the majority of the game, the team looked to Artest to deliver. It’s not going to be that way on most nights, but it’s good to know that the team can still rely on Artest when needed on offense.

That wasn’t so much the case earlier in the season or even earlier this month. There was speculation a trade was being drawn up to send the Lakers forward to Charlotte in exchange for Gerald Wallace. Artest has no doubt had a few questionable games. Some even caused Jackson to play him limited minutes down the stretch, opting to insert Matt Barnes into the lineup instead. The injury to Barnes put a damper in the Lakers’ depth and shifted the attention towards Artest’s production.

It didn’t help matters much that Artest’s eccentricity was raising eyebrows of late. After losses in both Charlotte and Cleveland, Artest went on to spray the Odom/Kardashian scent, Unbreakable, at a reporter and promote the release of his new mixtape, respectively. His usual antics combined with poor on-court performances were labeled as a distraction.

Next: Artest’s role on the Lakers team

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