Ron Artest played against the Kings for the first time as a member of the Lakers earlier toinight, which means he got his first up close and personal look at rookie Tyreke Evans. He missed the previous two games with a concussion. And, yes, he was impressed. Though Evans struggled from the field until tossing in a few late layups - he was 5-of-16 through three quarters - he missed another triple-double by a single assist. He also did a great job pushing the ball in the opening half, and afterward said he regretted not dictating a crisper pace in the final two periods. But here's Artest on the rookie, whom he defended more effectively than did Kobe Bryant: "He played great. Good player, good player. He attacks, he can attack. He has his time to go get 50 or 40 points. He's a rookie. I was really impressed with his poise. He's got to be more of a leader though. He has the potential now -- he doesn't talk enough to his teammates. A guy with that much poise should have more leadership. That much poise, at that age .... He's 20? With that much poise, a smart player, he needs to take a bigger role, a man's role, that man's leadership role, and direct his teammates. And make his teammates better. Then take over when it's necessary."
Asked a few minutes later about being guarded by Artest, who was told by Phil Jackson before the game that the Lakers needed his defense - not his offense - to win the game, Evans smiled and nodded. "He's got the quickest hands I've ever played against. He moves so well straight up, you got to try to beat him lateral, beat him off the dribble. I tried to do that on the pick and rolls, try to get by him."
One final note about Artest: He says his daughter, Diamond, who continues receiving treatments for kidney cancer, is doing well. That's great to hear. For all the criticism Artest has taken, anyone who has spent time around him knows him as a doting, loving, involved father.
Can't teach size
Spencer Hawes' long term importance to the franchise is obvious, but this was reinforced by the Lakers superior size, length and interior presence. Hawes, a 7-footer who is only 21, will physically mature during the next three-four years. Hey, it happens. It happens late. Historically, it takes longer for big men to physically mature and develop. But clearly, the Kings' need additional help on the frontline. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum dominated the interior, half the time catching the ball ridiculously close to the basket, or just reaching up and over the undersized Carl Landry for layups and dunks. At least Hawes challenged Bynum's attempts and blocked five shots. Unfortunately, he only grabbed three boards, and received absolutely no weakside help unless Evans darted inside and claimed rebounds. Landry and Donte Greene have to do a better job on the boards. Greene, with his size and athleticism, absolutely, should be more of a factor.This also was a game when Omri Casspi and Jason Thompson probably deserved more minutes, with Thompson collecting 10 boards and Casspi stealing two balls, running the floor, and looking more like the spry, promising rookie of November, December and January instead of the mentally and physically rookie since the All-Star break.
Hawes showed something else: Even while getting torched on at the other end, he responded with a flurry of jumpers, drawing Bynum away from the basket and creating spacing for his teammates. He didn't wilt, and frankly, should be pretty ticked off at his teammates for a lack of help underneath. None of this, by the way, detracts from the fact that Hawes would be advised to spend the offseason getting stronger and learning to become more physical down low. He is a 7-footer. A skilled, talented, 7-footer. Milwaukee's emerging center Andrew Bogut should be his role model ....
Lakers-Kings still has that draw
The final meeting between the teams this season at Arco brought the entire Maloof family to town, including Adrienne, who was accompanied by several female neighbors who were being filmed during the game for an upcoming episode of "Beverly Hills Housewives." I've never seen the show - which airs on Bravo - but my friends love it ....
Mayor Kevin Johnson also made an appearance after halftime, and having just left the City Council meeting, seemed upbeat and energized. He slipped into the tunnel area with the Maloof brothers between the third and fourth periods, and I assume, to provide what I later heard was an encouraging update on the proceedings.
Best wishes to a former colleague
I would be remiss if I didn't offer a word or two about my longtime Bee colleague Sam Amick, who is leaving The Bee for a job with AOL fanhouse after five years as the Kings beat writer. As a former Clippers/Lakers/Hawks and NBA beat writer and columnist - the NBA ran my life throughout the Bird-Magic 1980s and early 90s - I have a tremendous appreciation for the demands of the job, and Sam's professionalism throughout. He is a tireless, conscientious worker, a wonderful communicator, and blessed with terrific people skills. I'll take some credit for touting him for a fulltime position at The Bee, and later, endorsing his selection as Kings beat writer. Wishing him the best, as a former colleague, and more importantly, as a friend. That said, I believe his successor, Cal grad and ex-Raiders beat writer Jason Jones, will do a fine job. He'll find the NBA schedule exhausting and the rhythm completely different, but as Ron Artest would say, he'll adapt.