When it was announced that the young and electrifying Trevor Ariza was being replaced with Artest, who, just a few months prior had displayed his inability to keep his composure in key moments during the Lakers-Rockets semi-final matchup, mixed sentiments and a plethora of uncertainties swept the Lakers Nation. How many days would Ron last before his first outburst? Would he be able to give up his ball-dominating offensive style of play in favor of a role playing option in Phil Jackson’s triangle? Would he even understand the triangle? Essentially, it was decided that if the Lakers did not repeat as NBA champions, all the blame would fall on Ron-Ron.
Artest knew this going in too, and he agreed with it. “They won last year, and I’m the new addition,” he told the Associated Press prior to last season. “The fans expect to repeat. Everybody in L.A. expects a second ring. And if we don’t then yeah, they should point it right at me, throwing tomatoes and everything.”
However, Artest would finish the season tomato free; through his suffocating defense, buzzer beating shot to beat the Phoenix Suns in game 5 of the Western Conference Finals and 20-point performance in the final game of the NBA FInals, he helped the Lakers to their second title in as many years. Upon arriving in LA, Artest displayed a respect for Lakers’ superstar Kobe Bryant that it seemed to be the x-factor in his collected demeanor from the Lakers first game until purple and gold confetti was raining on the Staples Center’s floor. He was able to make it through the season without ever being hit with a suspension and his worst antics included hilarious Twitter rants and a poor shot-selection from time to time.
Following the Lakers championship victory, a jubilant Artest made a statement that exhibited even more of his high character as well as the secret to his newfound success.
“I’d like to thank my psychiatrist, Dr. Santhi. She really helped me relax,” he told ABC reporter Doris Burke during the Lakers’ postgame championship celebration.
Until this moment, it was widely unknown that Artest had been seeing a psychiatrist, and his announcement of it displayed a true incentive to get a stronghold on his life and keep everything in control.