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Bball
12-13-2005, 04:28 AM
Trading Artest easier said than done

Michael Rosenberg / Special to FOXSports.com


The Indiana Pacers are caught between a rock and a head case.

On the one hand, they have Ron Artest, the most complete great player in the NBA. On the other hand, they have Ron Artest, who is a few chips short of the ante. And on the third hand (hey, it's Planet Ron-Ron, we can go to a third hand) they still see themselves as championship contenders.

Artest just asked the Pacers to trade him. Well, sort of. As with all things Artest, this is not quite how it appears. He told the Indianapolis Star that he wants to be traded. That's how the Pacers found out.

The Pacers have three options, and two of them stink.

Stinko Option No. 1: Keep Artest. That's fine if your goal is to make everybody else on your team furious. Otherwise, not so much.

Stinko Option No. 2: Get rid of Artest ASAP, for anything or anyone. Unfortunately, the NBA does not give away trophies for getting rid of players; the point is to win, which brings us to ...

The Only Good Option, No. 3: trade him for equal or similar value.

(Let's take a brief pause for interview highlights: Artest told the Star that Rick Carlisle is a great coach and he likes him, but can't play for him; that he is one of the best players in the league but the Pacers would be better off without him; and that he wants to "maximize my opportunity for my potential" by showing he is a premier scorer, but "there's a lot of players I wouldn't mind coming off the bench behind." Glad we cleared that up.)

"Artest" will be on the back on the jersey. Which team's name will be on the front? (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

The Pacers should trade Artest, in the same sense that we should eliminate gas emissions while boosting the economy. Some things are easier said than done.

(Wait! We're not done with the interview highlights. Artest says his past haunts him in Indiana, where he has been defended, coddled, loved, and for all I know, snuggled with after every practice. He wants to get a fresh start under a more understanding fan base. His first choice? New York. You have to love this stuff.)

The Pacers surely want to trade Artest to a team out West, reducing his chance of coming back and tearing their hearts out, both figuratively and literally. I can think of a perfect team on the Left Coast, with a long history of taking malcontents and loonies. Unfortunately, it's the Raiders.

As for NBA teams ... well, suppose the Pacers find a team willing to take Artest and sign a waiver promising not to sue if Artest does something nutty, like light himself on fire during a timeout.

How can they get equal value?

They almost certainly can't, for the same reason the Philadelphia Eagles can't get an All-Pro in exchange for Terrell Owens: Despite rapid expansion in the last 20 years, there are no NBA or NFL teams on Mars. Word is out about these guys. People have Internet access and stuff.

And without Artest, or a similar-caliber player, does anybody believe Indiana can make it to the NBA Finals this season?

You hear rumblings that the Pacers will rekindle Artest-for-Peja Stojakovic trade talk. But the Kings have to be careful; Artest implodes on losing teams, and the move could infuriate Sacramento's fans.

Dallas might be interested. The Clippers might be interested. The Pacers need to find a team that is close enough to a championship that it is willing to take a chance on Artest, but is willing to part with young talent and skill.

Oh, and the Pacers also need a heavy infusion of maturity and leadership Reggie Miller has never looked more valuable.

Getting rid of Artest will not solve all of Indiana's problems. If the Pacers' offense is reduced to a two-headed monster, and those heads belong to Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson ... well, that's a decent team. Under Carlisle, that might even be a 50-plus win team.

But it is nowhere near a championship team.

And remember, that's what the Pacers were supposed to be. Some of us were skeptical of all the preseason hype it seemed that people were conflating the Artest comeback story with the Pacers-are-championship-ready story. Now even Pacers fans should be skeptical.

But whatever you do, don't blame Ron-Ron.

"It's not my fault," he told the Star. "Every time somebody is on me it's a mismatch."

I'm telling you, I love this guy. The entertainment never ends.

I'm just not sure why a serious contender would want him.

Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com.

http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/5162604