View Full Version : ESPN: Rooting for Basketball's Bad Boy

Doug in CO
01-28-2006, 12:12 AM
Interesting this was not posted when it has been up all day (not surprising - but interesting)

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Rooting for Basketball's Bad Boy

By Skip Bayless
Page 2

When you heard on Tuesday night that the Artest-to-Sacramento trade had blown up, you undoubtedly thought: "Here we go again."

That's what I thought, too, but for a different reason.

I thought: Ron Artest's image is taking another hit it doesn't deserve. Artest is the most overvilified, overpunished player in sports. No, he's no angel. Yes, he can be a knucklehead. But I'm actually beginning to feel a little sorry for this kid.

First, NBA commissioner David Stern got away with suspending him for 73 games -- the rest of the season! -- after Artest didn't land a single punch in the stands at Detroit last year and threw only a couple over his shoulder in self-defense. Now, Larry Bird has managed to turn poor Artest into the bad guy when the real bad guy all along was Bird.

But it's always so easy to make Artest the fall guy because his name has become a sports-media synonym for trouble. Ron Ar-trouble. Most fans want from spectator sports what they get from dumbed-down movies and kill-or-be-killed video games -- easily identifiable heroes and villains. No gray area. For those who live in the shallow end of the pool, Artest is sports' biggest villain.

He's also the easiest target because he often isn't perceptive or eloquent enough to defend himself. So it doesn't really matter that he plays as hard night after night as any player in the league at both ends of the floor, that teammates (except for Jermaine O'Neal) like having him on their side and that his heart is basically in the right place -- that he's so much that Terrell Owens has never been. Yet Artest has been indelibly stamped: VILLAIN.

Funny, but in a recent GQ story, Owens was No. 1 among the 10 athletes identified as most despised by their peers. Artest didn't make the list. Players know.

But most fans need Artest to be their favorite bad guy, and sometimes I think he shrugs and thinks, "OK, I'll give 'em what they want."

But I (for one) am pulling for him to turn the Kings into The Team Nobody Wants to Mess With in the Playoffs. That would be justice. Wouldn't it be great if this trade turned into the shrewdest personnel decision since Red Auerbach drafted Larry Bird?

Oh, did that old hustler Bird ever fake us all out in Sports Illustrated's preseason NBA issue.

Bird literally stood behind Artest on the cover, as well as raving about him in the story. Bird even compared Artest's desire to win with ... his own! The message: Ronnie's a good kid who gets so intense on the court, and that night in Detroit, he lost control of his emotions.

Bird, after all, once decked a fan who ran onto the court at the end of one of his Indiana State games.

I applauded his support of Artest, swallowing it hook, line and trade bait.

After all, Artest had shown newfound maturity near the end of a Pacers blowout at the Palace in Auburn Hills by backpedaling away from a raging-bull attack by a frustrated Ben Wallace. But moments later, as Artest rubbed it in by kicking back on the scorer's table, he obviously should not have overreacted to the slightly filled cup of beer that landed on him. He absolutely should not have gone after the guy he thought had thrown it. But remember, there hadn't been a scenario like this before that brawl in Detroit. Players hadn't had it driven into their psyches by fines and suspensions and seeing a thousand replays of shameful video that they cannot go into the stands.

Artest was right: That night, a lot of guys would have done the same thing.

Yet he didn't slug the kid he thought had thrown the cup. He grabbed him. When other fans jumped on Artest, the only punches landed were by teammate Stephen Jackson, flying in to the rescue.

Only after Artest returned to the court, where he was confronted by a dukes-up fan, did he respond by throwing a punch. Then, flying in and landing what could have been a kill shot on the face of the fan's buddy, came Jermaine O'Neal.

O'Neal was suspended for 15 games, Jackson for 30, Wallace for six -- and Artest for 73, costing him $5.4 million in salary. You would have thought Artest had sent an entire row of fans to the emergency room. But Stern needed to blame someone for this P.R. nightmare, so why not the easiest target in sports? Yes, toss Artest to the angry talk-show mob and it will be satisfied.

Artest had a rap sheet of flagrant fouls and angry outbursts. But who cared that they all were the result of Artest playing basketball too hard, playing it the way the Pittsburgh Steelers play defense? Artest had no known drug problems. No wife-beating charges. No alcohol-fueled bar fights. No quitting on his coach. No pouting. No dogging it.

In fact, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle has often said he wished he had 12 Artests. To the end, Carlisle sounded as if he genuinely wanted Artest back on his team.

But the Pacers director of basketball operations obviously did not. That's Bird.

Early in the season, rumors sprang up that the Pacers were working on trading Artest to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic. As much as Bird genuinely seemed to like and admire Artest and his game, he clearly was trying to rebuild Artest's trade value in the Sports Illustrated piece. Bird and general manager Donnie Walsh obviously had decided they no longer trusted Artest and wanted to go forward without him.

When the rumor made it into print in the Indianapolis Star, Artest's pride was understandably stung. After all, he had taken his 73-game medicine without complaint or grievance or lawsuit. He even had volunteered to regain his edge by playing with rookies on the Pacers' summer league team. This, remember, was a former All-Star and defensive player of the year.

So Artest basically said, "If they don't want me, I want out." He also went public with what had become obvious to anyone who watched Pacers games: He was being phased out of the offense. It appeared O'Neal no longer was satisfied with sharing the low block with Artest when Artest was covered by a smaller man he could bully.

So as rookies Danny Granger and Sarunas Jasikevicius proved they could play, Bird and Walsh obviously chose to make the Pacers O'Neal's team instead of O'Neal's and Artest's. And that's when Bird slyly turned the tables on Artest, telling the media, "Ronnie's demanding a trade, so we'll try to accommodate him."

Sure, why not take the pressure off management by making it all Artest's fault? Most media members and fans are so predisposed to blaming Artest that no one seemed to notice he was merely responding to what now appears to be a very true rumor.

Walsh told ESPN.com's Chad Ford the Pacers and Kings had no early-season discussions about Artest-for-Peja. But it seems awfully coincidental this saga came full circle back to that very deal.

And Artest, of course, fell right into the trap, failing to make this clear in subsequent interviews. If only he could defend himself off the court the way he defends on it. For Bird, this was like playing one-on-one against the ball boy. But the early-season media leaks appeared to give the Kings management time to get cold feet. After all, they were considering trading their most popular player -- Peja, who had played seven seasons in Sacramento -- for the league's least popular player.

This forced Bird and Walsh to basically go through the charade of shopping Artest while Peja was the player they wanted in return all along. And this forced Artest -- though being paid -- to miss 25 more games. What did a guy who loves to play basketball do to deserve that? Yes, I know: Artest once needed some time off to rest up and promote an album for his record label. That I can't defend. Occasionally, he can be an idiot.

But as the Kings fell seven games under .500, they finally agreed to the deal on Tuesday. That's when Artest's agent, Mark Stevens -- apparently acting without consulting Artest -- called Kings GM Geoff Petrie to question him about the franchise's direction. Petrie was alarmed by Stevens' tone and expressed his concern to owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, who called Pacers ownership wondering what was going on. Bird and Walsh said they would bring in Artest the next morning to see what his reservations were about going to Sacramento and to basically tell him he had no choice if he wanted to get paid. But in this case, Artest can be blamed only for picking an obscure agent who sometimes doesn't handle things any better than Artest does.

Still, Artest took the fall. By nightfall, it was widely reported -- and believed -- that Artest had told the Kings he ain't playing in no Sacramento.

Artest At It Again, Nixes Trade!

Not true. On Wednesday, Jim Gray reported on ESPN what baffled the Kings about Artest's objections was Artest and his agent had recently run into the Maloofs, and Artest had told them how much he would love to play in Sacramento.

Not true, Joe Maloof said Thursday. The first time he had ever talked to Artest was by phone Wednesday, and that Artest had said all the right things. That prompted the Maloofs to again green-light the deal.

Stevens said Thursday he called Petrie only because "I thought me and Donnie Walsh had an understanding that we'd kind of be involved in the trade process." Fair enough; Artest deserved that much respect. So, said Stevens, he called Petrie merely to find out how serious the Kings were about continuing to rebuild a championship contender. Stevens said he heard all the right things.

Artest now says he's excited about starting over in Sacramento -- as he surely would have been early in the season.

I am rooting for Artest to jump-start the Kings with the enforcer's toughness they've always lacked on both ends. Come on, Ron, lock in and prove Bird wrong. For once, make someone else look bad.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.

01-28-2006, 12:14 AM
It's Skip Bayless. That's the interesting/surprising (or not) reason.

01-28-2006, 12:17 AM
Bayless is a moron

Doug in CO
01-28-2006, 12:19 AM
Yet there he is - making a helluva living as a commentator

01-28-2006, 12:20 AM
Yet there he is - making a helluva living as a commentator

Well, he get's a reaction I guess. Sorta like SAS.

Doug in CO
01-28-2006, 12:40 AM
I guess I appreciate the article because it gives another point of view - and he writes a well-crafted position

01-28-2006, 12:57 AM
I lost interest after the first few lines.

01-28-2006, 01:01 AM
Was it really : "obvious to anyone who watched Pacers games: He was being phased out of the offense."?


pizza guy
01-28-2006, 01:15 AM
Wow, I thought everyone but hoopsforlife and UB had jumped off the Artest bandwagon. Ron probably paid Skip to try to repair his image a little, not but so much that he loses his "ghetto" label.

Geesh, we're never going to hear the end of this thing....

01-28-2006, 01:28 AM
I read that and found it interesting. I feel that there is plenty of balme to go around in the whole thing, especially if they were floating deals without Ron knowing it. Is anyone really surprised that he would do what he did if he found out that Bird was patting him on the back while trying to ship him out? I know I'm not the only one here who wouldn't put it past Bird to try something like this if he thought it was for the betterment of the team. He's as competitive as Ron.

In the end though it doesn't really matter to me much.

01-28-2006, 10:25 AM
Yet there he is - making a helluva living as a commentator

Bender's made a hell of a living as a basketball player.

01-28-2006, 02:56 PM
I was going to read the article until I saw Skip wrote it. I can't stand him. I can't stand anybody that's on Cold Pizza (except Dana Jacobson). That show is a waste.

01-28-2006, 05:58 PM
I couldn't finish readint the article... so painful and lacking any form of coherent thought...

01-28-2006, 06:23 PM
Skip Bayless is a douchebag. He spews trash all over the place just to get a reaction out of people so they read it. This is the same guy that said the Seahawks are a terrible team and that Shaun Alexander is purely a product of his offensive line and that he faked an injury so he wouldn't have to play against the Redskins defense. I don't even like the Seahawks but that kind of pointless trash makes me mad.

ESPN has taken a liking to Ron Artest now believe it or not. Just watch Sportscenter and you see them acting like Ron Artest is some kind of saint now that he isn't on the Pacers. "RON ARTEST COMES OUT RED HOT!!"

Needless to say, Bayless is by far the worst ESPN analyst of them all. He's even worse then Kravitz.

01-28-2006, 06:33 PM
Here's my own view of the timeline:

1. Bird and Walsh shop Artest for Peja over the summer. Aren't successful.

2. Bird poses on cover of SI with Ron, not primarily for trade value, but because he also believes in Ron. Mixed motives.

3. They continue to push the Sac trade during the Fall and the rumor gets out. (Yes, Walsh used "disinformation" when he said they never did this.)

4. Ron got excited about going to Sac when he heard the rumor. (He said on Best Damn Sports Show that the day of the rumor, he wore a purple shirt and tie to the game.) While it may not be proven that Ron got no plays called for him, its obvious that JO got the majority of them. Ron, like many of us, could see that his low post presence was a much more reliable option, and got very frustrated with this over time, along with Rick's slow, deliberate offense.

5. After the rumors and Kravitz article, nothing happened. Ron REALLY wanted to leave Indiana so he forced the Pacers' hand and went public with a trade demand. He includes some of issues about Rick's offense in his public announcements.

6. When he realized he would be put on inactive instead of be immediately moved, he relented and said he wanted to play for the Pacers.

7. For the next month, strong rumors emerged about his going to the Lakers. Phil Jackson wanted him. Kobe wanted him. Then, it was announced he was definitely going to LA Clippers if the physical had been approved. Ron was over the excitement of Sacremento. He wanted to go to Hollywood. It was the perfect storyline. He would do his rap albums, be an eccentric LA character and play with the Showtime Lakers, or at least with the Clips.

8. He is then informed he has been traded to the Kings. "What? I want to go LA. I've been shopping for a house out there." So he gets his agent to sabotage the Kings deal. It works.

9. Then next day he finds out that his shenanigans will not only fail to get him to LA, he will likely sit out the rest of the year without pay. He relents.

10. He announces that he is excited about playing for the Kings. In fact, he was excited about it the first time he heard about it. Which is completely true. The trade goes through.

Anybody see any holes in this timeline?

01-28-2006, 08:28 PM
article = :suicide:

01-28-2006, 08:40 PM
Skip Bayless has a brother....Rick Bayless. He is a chef in Chicago @ Toboblambo and Frontera Grill...mexican joints.

Also has a show on PBS, and is an author of many fantastic cookbooks.

Check him out when you have a chance.

It's amazing that these two guys came from the same gene pool.