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Player of the Week: Ron Artest

With the playoffs right around the corner, the Lakers are peaking at the right time. Everything seems to be going right. Since the All-Star break, they're 14-1. They're playing expert defense, and closing out close games like a championship squad should be able to do.

A gutsy win in a close game against Portland, a blowout-turned-barn-burning-triple-overtime-delight vs. Phoenix and a paddling of the Clips kept the Show rolling as the Lakers went 3-0 on the week. Big Drew has won the Player of the Week award the past three weeks, but a bone-crushing flagrant shoulder smash shelved him for two games. So, it's time for a new winner.

Aside from Andrew Bynum's awesome emergence as a dominant defensive force, the Purp and Gold have been getting contributions from just about everyone not named Luke, Theo or rookie. The "role players" weren't spectacular, but Kobe, Pau, Lamar and Ron Ron all had a good week. How much bench production do you need with that fearsome foursome getting biz?

Per DexterFishmore:

As the Lakers have rampaged through the league over the past month, each of their stars has had his moment in the headlines. Andrew Bynum, when not in the penalty box, has been a primal, destructive force on defense and the glass. Pau Gasol long ago put his midseason languor behind him and is back to All-NBA form. Ron Artest is hitting threes, getting under the skin of opposing scorers and theatrically flexing his biceps. Kobe Bryant has remained productive despite a bad ankle and an occasionally off-target shooting stroke. And Lamar Odom, his ill-timed foul of Channing Frye notwithstanding, has been brilliant in all aspects of the game. Since the All-Star break, Kobe has been maybe the fourth-best player on the Lakers, which speaks volumes about the high-end play of the bros around him.

Barring any major slippage, they'll go into the second season not looking turn the switch on, like last season, but turning the volume up. Tasty stuff, as Dex might also say. With that said, this is too close to call myself. Lend a hand and let's take a vote.

Kobe Bryant: 33.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.0 steals per game in 38.7 minutes per game. He shot 35-of-72 for 48.6% from the floor.

Pau Gasol: 21.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game in 44.7 minutes per game. He shot 25-of-55 for 45.5% from the floor.

Lamar Odom: 18.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game in 41.0 minutes per game. He shot 24-of-42 for 57.1% from the floor.

Ron Artest: 14.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists,1.6 blocks, and 2.3 steals per game in 38.7 minutes per game. He shot 17-of-34 for 50.0% from the floor, including 6-for-13 from three.

*Please keep in mind that the voting will be curved. For example: 2 votes for Kobe might as well be worth one vote for another player. The scale won't be 2-for-1, but the "Kobe always wins rule" will apply. If it's close, the award will go to the 2nd guy.

UPDATE: Ron Artest is too strong for a Kobe rule. He wins Player of the Week. He won fair and square, and he earned my vote too.

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