Crazy Pills IV: Back In The Habit

We haven’t taken a good, long look at Crazy Pills in a while. And it’s not that we haven’t noticed the rapping. Or the workout girls. Or the baseball cap. Or the Celine Dion. Or the lack of geographical awareness. Or the baseball hat.

You get the picture.

Anyway, the reason is that it’s been to obvious. The brilliance of Crazy Pills, the Artest that evolved after the brawl, was his flow beneath the surface. This flurry of heavily watched activity has been largely disappointing, lacking a certain je ne sais… merde de batte. But this? The last line?

Oh, that’s good Crazy Pills.

“You talk to God?”

Would you like to discuss the role of Artest in LA, which we actually haven’t touched on? Okay, then.

There are two ways it will go down. The overload of personalities create an LA 2004  situation, creating an unstable environment that ultimately results in all sorts of bad karma. We’re definitely headed down that road. Let’s throw out the Kobe-maid suit. It’s irrelevant and the man will just brush it off his shoulders. I mean, honestly, at this point unless you’ve got evidence that links him to the grassy knoll, he’s not phased by your petty accusations. But that still leaves us with Crazy Pills in an environment in which there is constant, non-stop attention on him 24-7, not to mention it being the most exorbitantly excessive city outside of LA in the entire continent of North America. Derek Fisher is trying to manage the player’s union in an especially delicate time. Farmar wants the starting job. Badly. Bynum is talking about the All-Star Game. Pau Gasol just played a ton of Euroball, brilliant though he was. And Odom… Good God. Congrats and all, but kind of a whirlwind, right?

I had a bad feeling about the Celtics last year when Pierce got pulled over and the Celtics were all partying late in the year. It was to be expected, but then, so was the hangover. This Lakers squad has an abundance of extra stuff going on. That’s all I’m saying.

Then again, the other way this could go is Artest is Rodman, everything gels, and the Lakers roll and roll and roll. That’s the more likely scenario.

For Crazy Pills, specifically, you can tell he’s liberated in LA. The effect is always the same. The personality grows. There’s such a relief that accompanies going from frustration and mediocrity (sorry Houston, I want the best for you, I do) to perpetual and sustained greatness. It prompts players to stretch out, get comfortable, walk with … ugh… swagger, bash their old team (hiya, Pau), and generally bask in how awesome everyone thinks they are. For Ron, though, it’s something else. He’s not trying to prove anything to anyone. He’s a Laker, which means he’s valuable. And he’s among friends. There’s no threat to him in this environment, which means he’s comfortable. And that’s oddly refreshing.

Artest always had a twitchyness about him, as if he was going to snap at you if provoked. He doesn’t seem that way anymore. He seems to be, quite simply, amused. After all, he doesn’t have to have the bitter focus he had in Houston. You can laugh your way through the league and still win a championship with the Lakers. Everyone remembers their uneven performance last May. They were down by more than 30 points (!) in a playoff series to a team without its best player! Without its two best players! And they won the series!

What’s Artest going to do when he knows that he can’t hurt his team’s chances?  He can be a shapeshifter in this scenario, on and off the court. King, jester, pitbull, hyena, cheshire cat, tornado, rocking chair. There are no limits in LA. Think about it. He can’t hurt team chemistry, they’re invulnerable. They’re led by an assassin (but a loving father!), who doesn’t care what you do as long as you don’t get in his way. Gasol could play with anyone. He just does his thing and parties. Odom is a space cadet. Bynum is a space cadet. It’s not like this is a delicate situation that has to be handled. The Lakers are impervious. And that freedom allows him to be at once wanted, and incapable of pushing them to the edge.

This could very well end up being the Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band of Crazy Pills’ career.

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.