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04-30-2004, 01:37 PM
http://www.indystar.com/articles/0/142530-6210-036.html

Bob Kravitz
Citizens, a vote for Artest is a vote for Indiana!


April 30, 2004


By and large, I didn't mind the fact that Rick Carlisle and the Indiana Pacers campaigned on behalf of Ron Artest's candidacy for Defensive Player of the Year.

Although I've got to admit, there were some moments I thought it all went a little bit over the top, and I could see where Detroit's Larry Brown and San Antonio's Gregg Pop-off-ich might take offense.

Or defense, in this case.

Like the blitz of television ads.

"Hi, I'm Ron Artest, and I want to be YOUR Defensive Player of the Year."

(In the background, there's a montage playing, showing Tracy McGrady and Paul Pierce clanging shots to the accompaniment of the song "Brick House.")

"I'm not here to take anything away from my opponents -- except their offense, of course -- but does anybody really want to see Ben Wallace win it again? And when did Bruce Bowen ever put up my kinds of offensive numbers? Don't do it for me, though. Do it for the kids. Think defense, think Ron. Thank you."

(Voice over: Paid for by the Friends of Ron Artest; Donnie Walsh, Treasurer.)

Honest, did he really have to go negative?

I also thought it was a little bit excessive when I kept opening my mail at the office and finding the following items.

A Ron Artest mousepad;

An Artest bobblehead;

A DVD of Ron's Greatest Stops, with a special bonus feature by associate coach/defensive guru Mike Brown;

Campaign buttons. I'm going to put the "Artest '04" button right next to my "McGovern '72."

The problem is, I don't vote on Defensive Player of the Year.

And if I did, I'd be holding out for far better merchandise.

However you view the campaigning, you've got to give Carlisle credit for becoming the James Carville of the NBA. In recent years, he helped get Wallace the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. And this year, he not only worked on behalf of Artest, but tried to get Jermaine O'Neal the MVP, Al Harrington the Sixth Man award, and if my sources are right, he came this close to getting Primoz Brezec the award for Most Improved Player From A Former Eastern Bloc Nation.

So what I'm saying is, if he wants to spearhead my campaign to win the Pulitzer Prize, I'm not going to get in the man's way.

Why are Brown and Popovich whining, anyway?

All these coaches do is campaign. Every time they open their mouths, they're trying to manipulate somebody: the officials, their players, the media.

I give Carlisle and the Pacers credit. This was smart. It brought the franchise great publicity. And it let players know that their coach was ready and willing to fight for them to receive awards.

The best part of the Pop-off-ich blast was his criticism of the Pacers' "phony baloney" statistics. Now, I don't know how accurate those numbers are -- I wouldn't trust an intern to get my coffee -- but if you saw what Artest did to Pierce, McGrady and so many others, you don't need statistics. Phony baloney or otherwise.

And when Artest wasn't locking them down, he was scoring 20 points per game, forcing his foes to work even harder.

I can guarantee you, a year from now, every intern in the league is going to be asked to pore through a million hours of video to come up with the same kinds of statistics.

That said, I do think that in the future, we should establish some limits. Call it campaign finance reform for the NBA.

For instance:

In the future, no signs in yards. These are a blight on our civic landscape. I'm tired of driving up and down Allisonville Road and looking at signs reading "My Man Jamison."

No more mailings.

I get enough spam e-mails.

Enough with the shaking hands and kissing babies.

It's fine that the Pacers' candidates want to get out there and meet the people, but this is a terrible way to spread germs.

Cancel the debates.

I'm not watching Artest and Wallace argue over the tax code and Social Security while "American Idol" is on.

Frankly, I liked Artest's suggestion. Have the candidates go one-on-one, no referees, no rules, steel cage preferred.

Just one more thing, though: Next year, I don't want Carlisle calling me at home again pushing Artest for the Heisman Trophy and an Academy Award. That's crossing the line.

Bob Kravitz is a sports columnist at The Indianapolis Star. Call him at (317) 444-6643 or e-mail bob.kravitz@indystar.com