That may be changing down the stretch.
Artest arrived for Sunday's nationally televised game with the Orlando Magic -- a rematch of last season's NBA Finals -- sporting a new Dennis Rodman-type haircut that will bring considerably more attention to his game.
His hair is orange/yellow now, and carved into it is the word DEFENSE but in three different languages -- Japanese, Hebrew and Hindi. He had it done in Orlando after a short workout Saturday.
During an interview before the game, he declined to say what the words meant, but he let it be known earlier on his Twitter account.
"It's like a school project for you,'' Artest said before the Magic-Lakers game at Amway Arena. "Take a picture and look it up. Ask your wife. Or just google it, and find out.''
The design certainly amused Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who earlier this season had expressed his disappointment in Artest's defense. He had come to the Lakers this summer as a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but he had not been playing like one until recently.
"If he gives us what's on his head, then we'll be in great shape," said Jackson, who once coached Rodman, another player with some odd hairstyles. "There was a focus [with Rodman] that came along with the oddity of drawing attention to himself.''
Artest is averaging a career-low 11.4 points this season, which isn't completely surprising because he never has played on a team with so many other offensive weapons. But it's his drop in defensive success that has been unexpected.
He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He was first-team All-Defense in 2004 and 2006. He was second team All-Defense in 2003 and 2009.
Part of his struggles, he said, was because he had added weight in recent years trying to get stronger and more physical. The Lakers coaching staff asked him to lose a few pounds earlier this season, and he believes it has made him quicker again.
"Last couple years, I slacked off, but I'm back now, picking up people, taking the ball from them, locking them up,'' Artest said. "Anyone trying to attack me now is going to have problems.''
The Lakers were hoping the addition of Artest could make them better defensively, letting him guard some of the league's top perimeter scorers, and allowing Kobe Bryant more freedom to roam.
"I enjoy playing defense more than anything,'' Artest said. "It's what I do. Right now, I'm on pace to be where I want to be, getting back to being a lock-up defender. If you don't have talent on the wing, you're in trouble.''