INDIANAPOLIS -- Is Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest a fairy godfather looking out for a league full of young players high on talent and low on direction, or nothing but a big bully picking on guys without solicitation?
Three times this season Artest, a 12-year veteran, has made critical comments about a third-year player he played against in the postgame locker room following a Lakers win.
The latest occurred Tuesday in Washington after the Lakers beat the Wizards 103-89 and 22-year-old JaVale McGee had 12 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks in the loss.
"He potentially could be a really good player," Artest said of McGee after the game. "I think he got to go to school a little bit more. He's got to work on that IQ a little bit. He got to watch more tape. I don't think he watches tape. I think he plays video games. I do. I don't think he watches tape. I think he plays video games and I think he could possibly have an Atari. He should upgrade to a PlayStation."
It started Nov. 19 after the Lakers beat the Timberwolves 112-95 despite 25 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks from the 21-year old Beasley.
"He's a good player, but they have to teach him how to play ball," Artest said. "He could be such a good player but he's doing one thing. He's so athletic, where it will work a lot of times, but all he's doing is he's playing one way -- going all the way to the hole or he's going to shoot. He's not getting no assists. It's not his fault, he's a young player. Somebody should be telling him [how to play]. ... He should be having more assists, more rebounds, he should be playing more defense. ... He could be a winner, he could be a winner. Somebody needs to teach him how to win, though. Right now he's just shining [individually] and anybody could do that."
It continued Dec. 8 after the Lakers edged the Clippers 87-86, with the 22-year-old Jordan going for nine points, 11 rebounds, a steal and a block.
"Jordan, if he works on his game and loses some of that fast-food burger belly, he's going to be OK. ... If he works on his game, hook shot, turnaround, drop-step-move, fundamentals, he's going to be unstoppable," Artest told the Los Angeles Times."But I don't know if he wants to be unstoppable. I think he's comfortable eating fast-food burgers. I'm not sure."
The 31-year old Artest explained himself after the Lakers' 109-94 win Wednesday against the Pacers.
"[I'm] trying to get them mad at me, so maybe next time they'll play against me they'll get really mad. I love the competition," Artest said. "[It's] more than just being an athlete, make sure you get your mind right and you understand the game. Just get better."
Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said usually the team discourages Artest's brand of trash talk.
"It depends upon the player if someone's saying it [but] we don't really like to comment about other players," Jackson said. "It incites them or gets them going, but you know, we're not playing Washington again so that's not going to happen with McGee, I doubt."
The coach downplayed the chance of Artest speaking about the players with any malicious intent.
"Ron is such a free spirit," Jackson said. "He'll say a lot of things that I don't think he has to regret, but it's just something that might be off the cuff that might be unusual."
Artest described the potential he saw in all three players that prompted him to say something.
"Those three guys ... DeAndre Jordan should be a monster," Artest said. "He should be one of the best centers in the NBA. And you look at McGee -- are you watching film, are you paying attention to the defense, do you have a hook shot, left and right? Beasley, he's a great player right now. Are you working going right? I love that part of the game. I like to see people improve. That guy can be really good and I'm going to see what happens next year.
"It doesn't bother me. It's just interesting to see what would happen if they get better. It would be scary."
The Lakers' season series is finished with Washington, but they have two games remaining against the Wolves (March 1 and March 18) and three games left against the Clippers (Jan. 16, Feb. 25 and March 25).
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.