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They're Ugly, But Lakers and World Peace Made It Work

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Photo by =Manny= via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
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There was nothing pretty about the Lakers’ 86-78 win against the Atlanta Hawks as the Lakers came back home from the irrelevant award show road trip. But the ugliness got started over the weekend with some words by Ron Artest.

I’m not going to even pretend to understand Ron Artest. CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger talked to Artest who was getting in some extra work on the floor at the TD Garden in Boston last week, and Artest brought up the issue of his lack of playing time. As Artest told Berger:

"I'm trying to win," World Peace said. "And right now, coach is a stats guy. His background is video coordinator or whatever. So he's all stats. But Ron Artest is all feel. He doesn't understand that. Having me in the game at the end, he was worried about me shooting bad from the free throw line. And I was like, 'I could care less because I'm gonna get a stop at the end of the game.' He didn't understand the rhythm that we had -- me, Fish [Derek Fisher], Kobe [Bryant], Pau [Gasol] and Drew [Andrew Bynum]. I've been through games where I would have two points, go 1 for 9 and we'd win. That's what matters. Stats are for people who need stats."

Fox Sport’s Joe McDonnell followed up on Monday and got a couple of Lakers’ off the record. Some juicy gems from McDonnell's story:

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World Peace is "walking around all crazy-like. We're just waiting for him to go off," one Lakers player recently told FOXSportsWest.com, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

And…

"There are a lot of guys in here who'd just like to see him gone," one player told FOXSportsWest.com on the condition of anonymity. "I think we'd definitely be a better team if everyone didn't have to walk on eggshells when he's around."

This is not an issue that’s going to tear apart the Lakers any time soon. In fact the problem that is Ron Artest is quite low ranking beneath “find a point guard” and “learn how not to give up offensive rebounds.” But seeing how soon trading deadline is, McDonnell brings up a good question: Is it time for Artest to go?

Despite the chatty teammates and Artest’s worst statistical season to date, the only reason to move him is to get a good point guard. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any Asian-American Ivy League-graduate point guards littering the league, so unless there is something worth pursuing there is no reason to ditch Artest quite yet. After all, he hasn’t started an all-out brawl or begged off for a week to recover from a promotional tour.

Artest did show he can have some shining moments as he nailed a wide open three to close the first half despite hesitating for a second. That three gave the Lakers the 42-41 halftime lead. He was also a pest defensively in the third quarter that helped the Lakers go out to a 15-2 run to close that quarter.

In the fourth quarter he showed some of his moves circa his Pacers days toying with Vladimir Radmanovic, dribbling between his legs before exploding towards to bucket for an emphatic slam. Artest ended the game with 10 points, four boards and two steals.

But it was evident from the very start that is was going to be an ugly game highlighted by Kobe Bryant’s 1-for-10 shooting in the first half for only two points. Both teams combined for 31 offensive rebounds in the game, but for the Lakers it came down to their big guys: Pau Gasol had 20 points, 13 rebounds and Andrew Bynum had 15 points and rebounds.

Perhaps the weirdest stat of the night came from behind the arc. The third-best three-point shooting team (Hawks) went for only 26% while the worst in the league (Lakers) was 47%.

Also looking at Atlanta’s roster gave me an oh-that-guy-is-still-alive-and-in-the-NBA moments throughout the night. On their roster including the previously mentioned Radmanovic: Tracy McGrady, Jannero Pargo, Kirk Hinrich, Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier. Can anybody say, “Whoa?”

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In the battle of Koivus, it was the Ducks’ Saku who beat his younger brother Mikko as the Ducks beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1.

TONIGHT’S ACTION
Washington Wizards at LA Clippers. 7:30 p.m. FSWest, AM 980 KFWB.
Anaheim Ducks at Pittsburgh Penguins. 4:00 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 830 KLAA.

College Basketball
UC Santa Barbara at UC Irvine. 7:00 p.m.
Cal State Fullerton at UC Riverside. 7:00 p.m.
Cal Poly at Cal State Northridge. 7:05 p.m.
LMU at St. Mary’s. 7:30 p.m.
USC at UCLA. 7:30 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 570 KLAC (Bruins Radio), AM 710 KSPN (Trojans Radio).