NBA: Artest won’t say whether he wrote critical tweets
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — If Ron Artest criticized Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Twitter, he isn't exactly owning up to his tweets.
Five disjointed, grammatically challenged messages appeared on Artest's latest Twitter page late Thursday night, expressing frustration that Jackson had spoken to the media about Artest's play before talking to the veteran forward personally.
But Artest wouldn't say whether he had written the tweets when asked Friday before the Lakers departed for Utah, where they'll play Game 3 of their second-round playoff series with the Jazz on Saturday.
"I'm never upset at my coach," Artest claimed, before challenging reporters to quote the tweets precisely — and then refusing to talk about them altogether.
Artest's brother, Daniel, later tweeted that Ron's page had been hacked. Ron Artest also declined comment on that possibility in an unusually brusque interview session with the normally gracious forward.
"I'm here to talk about basketball, basketball, all basketball," Artest said.
Artest has been in a profound 3-point shooting slump in the postseason, making just 7 of 42 shots. Jackson has praised Artest's defense against Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, but suggested he should cut down on his 3-pointers, particularly from the corners.
Artest went 1 for 7 in the Lakers' victory over the Jazz in Game 2 on Tuesday night, with the Staples Center crowd collectively cringing whenever he lined up a 3-point shot.
Jackson hadn't heard about the rogue tweets Friday afternoon, but the 10-time NBA champion coach wasn't perturbed.
"I guess he might be a little sensitive," Jackson said with a grin. "I've been very upfront with him about his 3-point shooting."
Jackson likened Artest's struggles to Chicago Bulls reserve Toni Kukoc's slump during the 1996 playoffs. Kukoc broke out of it with a strong performance in the NBA finals against Seattle.
"We expect him to break out of it at some point, but he's got to be discriminative in what's a good shot and what isn't," Jackson said. "I'll talk to Ron about it. I know he's sensitive about it."
Artest has used multiple Twitter IDs over the years, but most recently has been using RONARTESTCOM. A few weeks ago, Artest claimed he was done tweeting until after the playoffs.
But the first tweet appeared on Artest's feed around 9 p.m. Pacific time Thursday.
"Finally Phil Jackson didn't mention me in media before talking me Now I can build on game 2. Hopefully he talks to me before the media," it read, followed minutes later by: "Ever since phil mention things about me in media before coming to me first I was weird . So every pray he can somehow close his yapper" and "And now say AMEN."
An hour later, another appeared: "Its just something that I have to get use to. He is a different stlye coach. Just bad timing during playoffs and midseason for me!!"
Artest received uniform praise from Jackson and his teammates this week when he was left off the NBA's all-defensive teams. Though Artest's offense hasn't been a major contribution to the top-seeded Lakers, his defense has been a key component of their Pacific Division title run, followed by six wins in eight postseason games.