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Hicks
03-17-2006, 03:59 PM
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=sheridan_chris&id=2371734&univLogin02=stateChanged

Updated: March 17, 2006
Pacers tread water; Kings ride Artest into playoff race
Insider
Sheridan
By Chris Sheridan
ESPN Insider
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Joe and Gavin Maloof walked out of Donnie Walsh's office Thursday afternoon with their whiter-than-white teeth affixed in duplicate smiles.

Walsh wasn't quite as cheerful after showing them to the door, his face an expression of cautious satisfaction.

Ron Artest
Rocky Widner/Getty Images
Ron Artest and the Kings have been squashing other teams.

"They were happy with Ronnie and I'm happy with Peja, that was it," Walsh said of his conversation with the Maloofs, who were touring Conseco Fieldhouse to study its architecture and amenities, squirreling away ideas for the new building they hope to get built some day.

"They're surprised that Ron has had the impact he's had," Walsh said. "But all those teams in the West, I told them when we were dealing with all of them and they were all bunched up: 'I don't know where he's going, but wherever he goes, that team is going up in the standings.' And that's pretty much what has happened."

On the eve of Artest's return to face the team that traded him, there was reason for Walsh to be a little less bubbly than the young Sacramento Kings owners who had just left his office. The president of the Indiana Pacers had watched his team lose for the fourth time in six games the previous night, dropping to just two games above. 500 while falling to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Nearly two months after sending Artest to the Maloofs for Peja Stojakovic, Indiana has failed to do what's being done by the Kings, winners of eight of their last nine as they've turned around a once-stagnant season and vaulted into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Included in that streak was a 4-1 Eastern road trip that ended eight days ago and was followed by home victories over the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers that ran the Kings' home winning streak to 13 games.

With 18 games remaining, the Kings are only two games behind Memphis for the coveted sixth seed in the conference, and Sacramento's remaining schedule is easier than the Grizzlies' (Memphis has 11 games remaining against plus-.500 teams to the Kings' eight, and Sacramento has nine home games to Memphis' seven).

The Pacers, meanwhile, have dropped to just two games above .500, but they've yet to play with Stojakovic and Jermaine O'Neal on the court together. O'Neal is expected back from a torn groin muscle before the playoffs, which appear to be a certain destination for Indiana. The big questions, however, are how good and how cohesive will the Pacers be once they get there?

"To a degree we've held our own, I think that's where we're at," Walsh said in an interview with ESPN.com at his office. "If we can hang in until when we get Jermaine back, we can come together and be a good playoff team. When we have Peja in there with Jermaine, it's a whole different story. Then our team makes more sense than it may appear now."

Stojakovic has averaged 20.2 points in 20 games for the Pacers, impressing coach Rick Carlisle with his effort in two facets of the game that were suspect parts of Stojakovic's repertoire, defense and rebounding. But while Indiana has plodded along, staying in the top eight of the conference standings, there's almost nobody looking at them as the same threat to win a title as they were when Artest was part of the equation.

"When we played Detroit in the game where [the brawl] happened, we didn't have Reggie [Miller], Anthony [Johnson] or [Jeff] Foster," Walsh said. "You look at that game alone without the fight, it was 'Hey, we're going to be good this year.' Then the fight happened, and everything in our world changed."

Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
The art of lockdown defense has a new home.

Artest was suspended for the remainder of last season, and Indiana had a better-than-expected year before falling in six games to Detroit in the second round.

This season began with a renewed sense of optimism, with Artest back in the fold and vowing to control his volatility while playing at an All-Star level.

"I would have picked us as a threat to be in the Finals," Walsh said.

But everything changed on the weekend in early December when Artest summoned Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star over for a discussion and told him he wanted to be traded. Walsh was initially ambivalent about the story, but his mood took a turn for the worse a day later.

"I saw him that night, a Saturday night, and I didn't make that decision [to trade him]," Walsh recalled. "I said I wanted to talk Monday. My thinking was I've got to get through this. Then the next day he came out and said it on two or three TV outlets, very definitively, that he wanted to be traded.

"It wasn't just that he said he wanted to be traded. Players do that, and you can move past it and not trade him, but with Ronnie this had been the last thing he did in a series of 10 things, and he was getting so much attention with every single thing he did, I think it frustrated our fans, team and coaches.

"And one thing he said to me when he told me, he said, 'Everything I do here is exaggerated. I can see it in the eyes of the players' -- and he was right," Walsh said. "If Ronnie ran off the court to go to the bathroom, the whole team would stop and say, 'What's he doing?' That's the kind of reaction he was getting here."

So the Pacers decided to trade Artest. In the locker room, the decision was viewed as a sound one by everyone except Stephen Jackson. Some of the other Pacers still counted Artest as their friend, just not the kind of teammate they wanted to have around anymore. After sticking up for him during and after the Palace brawl, they felt betrayed. "You know, these kids are still going through court-mandated anger management class, they've got to go to Detroit to do community service, and that all came out of that fight where they supported Ronnie. So in their minds, that was it," Walsh said.

But the offers that initially came in were underwhelming at best.

Indiana thought it had a deal with the Clippers for Corey Maggette, but when the Pacers' doctors took a closer look at his foot injury they decided to back off.

One month after making the decision to trade Artest, Walsh remembers getting a little edgy at the prospect that he had misplayed his hand.

Peja Stojakovic
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
The Pacers are pleased with the play of Peja.

"I did wonder: 'Am I going to get this done? Because if I can't we're headed to a day where it's going to get real difficult.'"

The Kings ended Walsh's worrying when they made the decision to further their yearlong roster overhaul, adding Stojakovic to a list of the recently departed that included long-standing Sacramento stalwarts Chris Webber, Bobby Jackson and Doug Christie.

The deal, however, nearly fell apart when Artest's agent, Mark Stevens, telephoned the Maloofs and scared them into backing out -- temporarily, as it turned out.

Walsh believes Stevens was operating at the behest of another Western Conference team, but the trade finally went through after Walsh summoned Artest and Stevens to his office the next morning.

"I think there were other teams in there trying to mess it up because of exactly what's happened. They wanted him, and they might not have had the player that would get him, but then they looked and said, 'If he ends up over here, now we have to deal with that.'

"That was the first time I had gone through that where I have a [trade] conference call scheduled and the hour kept passing and passing, and I knew something was really wrong here. Then I found out [Artest's agent] had made that phone call."

For now, Walsh is maintaining his patience and waiting to see what his team looks like when the postseason arrives. The Pacers have performed well against the East's division leaders (1-1 vs. Detroit, 2-0 vs. Miami, 2-1 vs. New Jersey), providing some hope.

But if the season ends with a quiet fade-out, the Pacers will enter the offseason open to any and all changes that will get them back to being the caliber of contender they felt they'd be at the start of the past two seasons. Stojakovic will become an unrestricted free agent, and O'Neal could be dangled if a player such as Kevin Garnett goes on the trade market, as many believe he will. "We'll have to see where it goes. I think Peja is going to be a good player for us, and if we come together at the right time he can help us this year," said Walsh, who paused to reflect on the Artest trade while declaring no regrets.

"It's a chapter in my history here that I wish didn't happen. I wish we didn't have to come to this point, but we did, and I think we came out as well as we could. At the end of the year we'll have to look back and see where we are and whether we can continue with this team, which I'd like to, or if we got to do more to get us back to where we thought we were."

ChicagoJ
03-17-2006, 04:19 PM
What a dumb premise for an article.

Our two best players have been out with injuries, and he's criticizing the Pacers for not performing better after the trade.

Artest is the best!
03-17-2006, 04:32 PM
What a dumb premise for an article.

Our two best players have been out with injuries, and he's criticizing the Pacers for not performing better after the trade. there is alot of games the pacers should have won whether they had there two best players or not. they lost a lead to the rockets on the road, they even lost games to raptors and hawks.

Eindar
03-17-2006, 04:46 PM
there is alot of games the pacers should have won whether they had there two best players or not. they lost a lead to the rockets on the road, they even lost games to raptors and hawks.

Um, what part of "two best players injured" don't you understand? That's EXACTLY the reason we didn't win those close games. Let me put this into perspective for you. If Mike Bibby blows out his knee tomorrow, you're about to see 2 weeks of constant losing, followed by Ron attacking an official or opposing player. Stop pretending that personnel doesn't matter in terms of wins and losses. It's asanine and makes you look like a troll.

waxman
03-17-2006, 05:12 PM
What a dumb premise for an article.

Our two best players have been out with injuries, and he's criticizing the Pacers for not performing better after the trade.


Word.

D-BONE
03-17-2006, 06:35 PM
I found it to be fairly objective. The Kings have reaped immediate rewards from the trade while we have not. We have been a mediocre team as the treading water analogy suggests.

The fact that it's not a completely even comaprison due to JO's absence does come out in the quotes from DW. And I think it paints a fairly good picture of where we're at-if with JO back we don't make a good playoff showing, it will be time to think about a new direction. In other words, we're in a rather uncertain situation right now.

Ragnar
03-17-2006, 06:44 PM
One of our two best players is injured. The coach unfortunatly has a brain injury that makes him forget that AJ is not clutch and that Tinsley is.

We would have won three of our four recent losses if AJ had not been in at the end.

ChicagoJ
03-17-2006, 07:16 PM
I found it to be fairly objective. The Kings have reaped immediate rewards from the trade while we have not. We have been a mediocre team as the treading water analogy suggests.

The fact that it's not a completely even comaprison due to JO's absence does come out in the quotes from DW. And I think it paints a fairly good picture of where we're at-if with JO back we don't make a good playoff showing, it will be time to think about a new direction. In other words, we're in a rather uncertain situation right now.

The headline and first 1/3 of the article were horrible, and do not reconcile with DW's quotes.

Sheridan tried to spin this into whatever story he wanted to sell and, since it was stupid premise in the first place, delivered a very uneven article.

Donnie's commentary was fascinating, though.

Anthem
03-17-2006, 07:59 PM
Donnie's commentary was fascinating, though.
Agreed.

There was that rumor that the Lakers were trying to sabotage the trade, but I didn't give them much thought. Sounds like Donnie sure did, though.

owl
03-17-2006, 09:52 PM
Don't mess with the "Don". I suspect some calls were made and some
consequences were mentioned if people did not cooperate.


owl

D-BONE
03-17-2006, 10:03 PM
The headline and first 1/3 of the article were horrible, and do not reconcile with DW's quotes.

Sheridan tried to spin this into whatever story he wanted to sell and, since it was stupid premise in the first place, delivered a very uneven article.

Donnie's commentary was fascinating, though.

Actually, I think this quote from DW pretty much sums up the take of the article as well as the rationale for choice of title:

"To a degree we've held our own, I think that's where we're at," Walsh said in an interview with ESPN.com at his office. "If we can hang in until when we get Jermaine back, we can come together and be a good playoff team. When we have Peja in there with Jermaine, it's a whole different story. Then our team makes more sense than it may appear now."

I read this article as being actually pro-Donnie. Particularly at the beginning where I think it's kind of making the Maloof brothers out to look a little giddy about the immediate Artest rewards by how they left the office but also noting DW looked cautiously optimistic, like I may yet get the best of this deal.

Anyway, we're coming at if from the same view. Pacers should not be made to look bad from this deal. That would be a misrepresenation. Like you, I, too, find the DW stuff just great. Go Pacers!

CompACE
03-17-2006, 11:52 PM
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=sheridan_chris&id=2371734&action=login&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fnba %2finsider%2fcolumns%2fstory%3fcolumnist%3dsherida n_chris%26id%3d2371734

Sorry if i put this in the wrong area - this is my first time requesting an espn article, but i would really appreciate it if someone posted this.

(EDIT) - My bad - someone already posted it - thanks anyway.

Lord Helmet
03-18-2006, 12:16 AM
http://www.pacersdigest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19985