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News » Artest to champion Lakers most intriguing off-season addition

Artest to champion Lakers most intriguing off-season addition

Artest to champion Lakers most intriguing off-season addition It?s possible no one has spent more time in NBA locker rooms with Ron Artest than Bulls center Brad Miller. The two were teammates in three different cities ? Chicago, Indiana and Sacramento.

Asked Monday how Artest will fit in with the world champion Los Angeles Lakers this season, Miller mostly just laughed.

"Who knows? Nobody can answer to that," he said. "It will be interesting. At some point, there will be something, I?m sure."

Bulls guard John Salmons, who spent two years with Artest on the Kings, expressed confidence that Artest, Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson will operate smoothly this season.

"He?ll fit in well," Salmons said. "I think he?s the type of guy who can really make your defense solid. He can guard the one through four, really. When we were in Sac, he was guarding (New York center) Eddy Curry at the five. He loved it."

Those who have spent time with Artest over the years ? he originally was drafted by the Bulls in 1999 ? know his complex personality. Search for the recent clip of Artest sitting in the TMZ newsroom to talk about the Lamar Odom-Khloe Kardashian wedding and you?ll get the picture.

Artest is so honest, funny and remarkably unpretentious, it hardly seems possible he?s a wealthy NBA star. But there have been times in the past when some wires inside him got crossed and, well, we?ve all seen the footage.

"I think he?s past all that," Salmons said. "You didn?t hear anything about

him in Houston. I think he?s past all that; he?s just trying to win."

Bulls veteran Lindsey Hunter has played for Phil Jackson?s Lakers and was in the Palace of Auburn Hills during the infamous fan brawl in 2004. When it comes to Artest and the Lakers, Hunter is sold.

"They?ll do well. I don?t see anything wrong with that situation," Hunter said. "I think he adds another dimension. It will be great for Kobe because now (Artest) will take the best offensive player on the other team and Kobe can do what he does. And I think he?s willing to fit in. So I think he?ll be great for them."

The theme of the past NBA off-season was the rich getting richer. Or at least seemingly getting richer.

Artest in L.A. is the most high-profile addition of the 2009-10 season.

At the same time, Shaquille O?Neal joined LeBron James in Cleveland, Eastern Conference champion Orlando traded for Vince Carter, and Boston signed Rasheed Wallace.

San Antonio, the Bulls ? opening-night opponent, qualifies for that list, as well, after trading for forward Richard Jefferson and signing veteran big man Antonio McDyess.

Going a step further, point guard Andre Miller is in Portland and sharpshooter Jamal Crawford moved to Atlanta.

Now it?s time to find out which of those teams actually will improve with a new addition and if any will become chemistry experiments gone awry.

"I think everybody got better," Hunter said. "Everything looks good on paper, but until you throw it up out there and get between those lines, then we?ll see how good everybody really is."

The Lakers have to be favored to win their fifth title this decade. Besides Bryant and Artest, they probably own the league?s tallest and most talented front line with Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Clearly, though, the Spurs are not ready to concede the Western Conference crown and spent millions to mount another title run, perhaps the last in Tim Duncan?s career. San Antonio still has the "big three" of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and will need to figure out the shot distribution.

Portland is a popular pick for an up-and-coming team, thanks to guard Brandon Roy. Denver reached the conference finals a year ago behind Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony, so the West figures to remain strong at the top and soft at the bottom.

In the East, expect Cleveland, Boston and Orlando to dominate again. The Bulls are hoping to be one of the teams competing for the No. 4 spot in the conference.

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Added: October 28, 2009


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