Artest late to practice after Game 5 winner

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Ron Artest had perfect timing in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals — and not so much the next day.

Artest was fined by the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday for showing up late to practice a day after his buzzer-beating layup clinched their 103-101 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said it was an innocent mix-up by the forward, who showed up 30 minutes late. Artest misread the practice starting time on the locker room dry-erase board in the excitement following Thursday's win.

"It was just one of those nights," said Jackson, who didn't disclose the amount of the fine. "I think he was just so excited after the game that all that processing and things that were on the board there didn't all register."

Artest was fined an undisclosed amount by the Lakers for showing up late to practice on May 7 after he failed to tell team officials he was at a funeral.

"Ron has a penchant for little things tripping him up," Jackson said. "Those type of things are the things that continually follow him, so he is kind of dogged by his own nature."

Artest scored just four points in Game 5, missing seven of his first eight shots — including two ill-advised jumpers in the final seconds, infuriating the home crowd and Jackson. But Artest then won it for the Lakers on his rebound of Kobe Bryant's missed 3-point attempt, bringing the same crowd to its feet.

"I don't mind being in the outhouse," Artest said. "I don't mind being the goat. I don't mind being the villain, hated. I've been that my whole career, so it's not like that's anything new. I don't mind people jumping on the bandwagon or jumping off. I just focus on playing the game."

After his high-arching layup got through the hoop, Artest celebrated with his teammates and a few record-executive friends who have courtside seats. But he ran off the court before even going through the usual postgame television interviews, and the Lakers had to fetch him from the locker room for interviews in which he mostly downplayed the shot.

After Artest left Staples Center, he had a late vegan dinner and went to a sports club near his house to work out for another hour until they kicked him out, the forward said with a grin.

It's all part of Artest's self-acknowledged inability to enjoy the moment. After a tumultuous NBA career including everything from the longest suspension in league history to recognition as its top defensive player, Artest says he finds himself constantly thinking too much — a strange condition for a player long accused of not thinking past his instincts.

"When I was young, I would stay in the moment, I would stay in the past," Artest said. "Now I'm just ready to move on. I'd rather go right to the next game, because that just makes it even better."

Although Artest said he'd prefer only to think about Game 6, he got several text messages from friends encouraging him to revel in his highlight-reel score. Mike Bibby, the Atlanta guard who teamed up with Artest in Sacramento, praised the beauty of Artest's final shot.

"I was, 'What are you talking about?'" Artest said. "I got the ball over my head, no form, just threw it up."