Win one for ... Ron Artest?
It's a concept that may seem a little far fetched to most, but on a team that won the championship just last season, Derek Fisher says the Lakers are motivated in part by the possibility of helping Artest win his first championship.
"I think a lot of people for years have felt like any team Ron is on doesn't have a chance to win because he's going to mess it up," said Fisher. "If anything he's done a great job of putting us in that position. We've found Ron to be a great teammate and a guy who has made as much or more of a sacrifice than anybody on our team this season....I think if we can win this thing that will answer the question of whether Ron Artest is misunderstood."
Artest's reputation as a team-killer comes mostly from comments he's made or things he's done off the court, but the Lakers forward hasn't had a banner Finals on the court, either. Artest is averaging eight points on 32-percent shooting during the Finals.
"With Ron's role, and the teams he's usually been on, this is vastly different from what he's been asked to do for his team," said Fisher. "He's continued to have the right attitude about just finding ways to fit in. We're trying to push him and encourage him to just be himself. And at the same time recognize that we have a system of doing things and a way of doing things that is supposed to provide those opportunities.
"Some of it is just, we haven't done everything as a team where it makes it easier for everybody to just play their game, and not necessarily have a bust-out game but a game where you have five or six guys in double figures. We've struggled in those games where Kobe's had to carry the load."
Artest's sacrifices in games, and in the locker room, are the reasons Fisher said he thinks Artest is so deserving of a title. Fisher admitted that the public has a different perception of Artest than what is true in reality.
"But I'm not saying yes in a way that people are supposed to feel sorry for Ron or are supposed to feel sorry for any of us because you may be misunderstood," said Fisher. "I think we're all largely misunderstood by people that don't know us. People that don't know you and they've only heard about you, they've only seen clips of you in one or two settings, we're mostly misunderstood by people who don't really have a feel for who we are. So yeah, I would say Ron is misunderstood, because you don't know Ron until you know him.
"Ron has made a lot of sacrifices this year. He deserves to be on a championship team. That's one of the reasons why we want to finish this thing off."