To set the stage, I'd wandered over to Ron Ron's locker a few minutes after he'd been told Deron Williams expressed confidence a speed advantage in the point guard's favor could be exploited against #37. I was too late to catch Artest's immediate reaction, but judging from what I did witness, this supposition put Artest's brain into overdrive like a certain shrimp on a treadmill. Similar to how Sasha Vujacic would be hard pressed to answer a question about the weather without mentioning his lack of playing time, Artest kept circling the wagons back to the "exploitation" theme.
After voicing happiness with the win (counter to the sentiments of a few dissatisfied teammates), a grin slowly formed as Artest couldn't help himself from bring up "the E word":
"That's it. Just win. [Williams] can exploit me. But it's about the team. I don't care. Exploit me. But if we win I'm OK."
Well, maybe quite OK, as revealed by Ron not-so-subtly whipping out the ol' resume.
"Don't worry about exploiting me. The same way the way I like to guard small guys, great players like Deron, great players like [Kevin] Durant, great players like LeBron [James]. Bigger than me, like [Carlos] Boozer. I guard Boozer. I'll guard anybody. They need to guard Kobe [Bryant]. Don't worry about exploiting me. Worry about stopping one of the greatest players that ever played."
Added Artest, "I don't know why he'd want to pick on me. I didn't do anything. All I did was play defense ... Deron's picking on me."
My attempt to change subjects also didn't do the trick. When I asked Ron about the way he's been operating with increased success from the post during the last two games, the question was answered, but not without a vocab-centric dig added:
"I'm gonna start exploiting some people, too."
And with that, I believe we officially entered "on like Donkey Kong" territory. Safe to speculate, dude is relishing Tuesday's inevitable possessions checking the All-Star point guard. I wouldn't be shocked if Artest somehow managed to lose five pounds in the 48 hours between Games 1 and 2, just to gain a little more speed and cut down on D.Will's opportunities to "exploit."
Like DeNiro says in "Goodfellas"while divvying up stacks of heisted cash, "It's gonna be a good summer." Get your popcorn, kids, because a quality show appears in the making.