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Artest had another big moment in these playoffs, rebounding Bryant's missed 3-pointer and making a buzzer-beating layup against Phoenix to win Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
"I've been thinking about a ring (for a long time)," Artest said. "You know I came here and I didn't make the money that I probably would've made somewhere else."
He signed a five-year, $33.5 million deal last summer.
"I just got to thank Coach Jackson for having me and Kobe and the Lakers for giving me this opportunity," Artest said. "I'm really, really just enjoying this, and I just can't wait to go to the club."
Eccentric though he can be, Artest's first season in Los Angeles was mostly free of the controversy that has plagued him at other stops in his NBA career.
Sure, he dyed and cut his hair in various colors and styles late in the season. There was his unprompted admission of drinking during games when he played with the Chicago Bulls, he got fined for showing up late a couple times, and some eyebrows were raised when Artest turned up with a concussion in December. He said he fell and hit his head while carrying Christmas presents at home, causing him to miss five games.
But through it all, the rest of the Lakers had Artest's back because as awful as his offense could be during the season, they never questioned his defensive effort.
"I'm just so happy for Ron the way he played," Pau Gasol said. "Defensively, he did another great, great job on Paul Pierce, so he's a huge part of our success. He's like a little kid right now that got his dream come true, like we all did."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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