Lakers to Play without Artest
Just before the Laker’s Game 3 tonight for the Western Conference semifinal against the Mavericks, starting forward Ron Artest was suspended.
The NBA made the ruling on Artest for hitting J.J. Barea, Dallas Guard, in the face with his forearm.
The Los Angeles Lakers are down 0-2 following the loss of 93-81 last Wednesday, and now they will be playing a crucial match without their starting forward.
Artest declined to give any reaction on Thursday, prior to boarding the team flight headed for Dallas. He merely said that he was just ready to keep moving forward and playing basketball.
Barea was reportedly dribbling his way around Lamar Odom of the Lakers at 24 seconds on the clock. The outcome of the game was already obvious by that time, and Artest moved in to the guard. Artest reportedly swung a forearm right at Barea’s head. This resulted in the ejection of Artest, who had recently been awarded the NBA’s citizenship award.
The NBA added that Artest would also be given a flagrant foul.
Coach Phil Jackson remarked that he was not surprised. He even seemed intent on leaving the Lakers on retirement at the end of the playoffs, despite the ending of the season not appearing to be Hollywood perfect.
Jim Cleamons, Jackson’s long-time assistant in Los Angeles and Chicago, commented, “Sometimes there’s not a happy ending. This is real life.”
Artest had quickly become a big contributor to the Lakers with his defensive presence as well as tenacity. He has started all the 90 games of the regular and postseason, with an average of 6.5 points for this series.
With his suspension, he will be replaced by either Matt Barnes or Odom.
The Lakers are heading to Dallas in a hole, thanks to the 24 points scored by Dirk Nowitzki and the 14 points attributed to Shawn Marion of the Mavericks in Wednesday’s game.
After the loss, Coach Jackson quipped that he would punish the team with a flogging—which he did, mentally, at least.
These three teams have had times of winning a seven-game series despite having lost their first two home games, but none of them has ever played from a 0-3 record.
This might be a possibility for the Lakers as they face their first game without Artest, although they still refused to accept that possible turnout.
L.A. star Kobe Bryant commented that playing desperate usually meant the player never played his best. “We need to relax,” he said, advising his teammates to focus on what they were doing wrong and make them right.
Andrew Bynum of the Lakers also remarked that the team had trust issues among one another, which he felt was a bunch of deeply rooted problems.
Still, the Lakers continued to try to show an aura of confidence for the game up ahead, refusing to believe that they could lose.