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Saturday, May 8, 2010
Lakers' Jackson, Artest clear air

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

SALT LAKE CITY -- Player and coach have made nice, Ron Artest for his late-night Twittering and Phil Jackson for his misunderstood "witticism."

Speaking to reporters before the Los Angeles Lakers' 111-110 win over the Utah Jazz in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, Jackson said he had discussed Artest's Twitter comments with his players and that Artest was apologetic and he was "sympathetic."

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"I'd been a little animated [Thursday] at practice and I think I kind of stirred the mix, so to speak, a little bit," Jackson explained. "I kind of understood where he might have had some difficulty that day."

The timing of Artest's Twitter tantrum seemed peculiar because the forward was referring to comments by Jackson about his 3-point shooting made more than a week ago in the first round against Oklahoma City.

Jackson explained Saturday that Artest was fined an unspecified amount Thursday morning for showing up late to practice and thought that his Twitter comments was just Artest "kind of lashing out a little bit."

"He had a funeral he attended early in the morning that kind of disrupted our practice, I was a little hard on him about that," Jackson said.

After the game, Artest told ESPNLosAngeles.com that the funeral was for attorney Peter Lopez who died of an apparent suicide last Friday. Lopez was a well-known entertainment lawyer whose clients included Michael Jackson and Chinese singer Shin Shin, an artist signed to Artest's label, Tru Warier Records.

"He was a really good friend, a really good guy and I just had to go to pay my respects," Artest said. "It was weird. It was kind of like one of your best friends all of the sudden just dying. It was hard, it was unbelievable, out of nowhere this guy who was so even keeled & It was hard."

Artest said he did not tell the team about Lopez's death, outside of a couple of teammates.

"It's something that is going to probably stick with me for awhile," Artest said, "but that's why it's good to be around your teammates to help you get through things, to help you get through it."

Artest admitted that Lopez's death was "bothering" him when he posted the Tweets about Jackson.

Artest's main gripe was not Jackson's comments, but the fact that the coach told the criticisms to the media before saying them to Artest. Jackson said that wasn't true.

"I think I talked to him about it before too -- at least if he was listening in the film session," Jackson said, getting in a little jab. "So I told him that I didn't feel it was legitimate."

Jackson said that he has to treat Artest differently than some of his other players, but thought that every coach has to do that with every player these days.

"Ron is a person I think you have to have a more direct influence as far as the subtleties of irony that sometimes I get involved in might pass him by," Jackson said.

"I think every player is handled differently. I have some guys that have been treated like prima donnas since the time they've been little shavers in junior high school and showed their skill in basketball and I have some guys who like it rough. They kind of enjoy being told what to do and how to do it in no [uncertain] terms ...

"I think most coaches have to [treat players differently]. I think this day and age, you almost have to. You got guys that have language barriers in this NBA and don't get all the things that are being said that might be cliché or a witticism."

After the game, Kobe Bryant was questioned about the "situation" between Artest and Jackson and responded, "What situation? Is that a joke? Seriously?"

"We all found it kind of funny," Bryant said. "It's not a big deal at all. Not even a whisper. It's entertaining."

The minor incident has not affected the relationship between Jackson and Artest.

"I can't describe him in words, that's for sure," Jackson said with a smile. "I've often said he's very naïve. He's a babe in the woods so to speak in a lot of terms as far as taking things literally, understanding the situation. But we hold him dear to our hearts."

On Friday after the story was reported, Artest wrote on his Twitter feed @RONARTESTCOM again, however.

The first Tweet read: "So many media tried to blow up the comments. Lol Me and Phil are it's just healthier being direct to me rather than media first." He posted several other times before wrapping up his thoughts on the subject with a two-part Tweet.

"I think I have the best coach. But that doesn't mean I want to find out in media that I need to be more aggressive or should not take .... Corner threes. rather he tell me personally and direct. I found out about his comments from my friends. But that's yesterday. Game 3!," the Tweets said.

After the game, in which his 20 points helped the Lakers take a 3-0 series lead, Artest said that there are no problems between him and Jackson.

"I do everything that Phil tells me, that's it," Artest said. "We never, ever, ever, ever had an issue I was just getting used to his coaching style and I love his coaching style. I would rather be coached under his style than any other style. It's a thing where I'm the new guy, so I have to adjust and I love being here. I love that new challenge of adjusting to different characters, personalities, schemes and things like that."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.