What influenced Artest to lose weight? The fact that he could become a better defender… that and Gary Vitti.
O.C. Register: As if Lakers trainer Gary Vitti wasn’t doing enough in building Kobe Bryant’s bionic index finger and selling Jerry Buss on the need to insure Andrew Bynum’s fragile knees by re-signing Lamar Odom, now we can credit Vitti for colossal midseason improvement in the Lakers’ team defense.
It was Vitti who suggested to Ron Artest that he lose some weight.
Artest took the advice – and took it to his customary maniacal lengths, going to jog at 2 or 3 a.m. some nights to make sure it happened. Not only has the lighter load at 255 pounds eased Artest’s plantar fascia pain, it logically has enabled those feet to move far faster than early in the season, when he peaked at 268.
Since the All-Star break, Artest has been a titan for the Lakers on defense, bringing back his original calling card and making it look like it could be the Lakers’ trump card this season.
“Getting back to how I know how to play,” Artest said Tuesday night after throttling Indiana’s Danny Granger in the Lakers’ victory.
The old Artest is who he expects to be come playoff time, when he plans to be down to 250 pounds. Yet in another sense, Artest wants to give the Lakers a new Artest.