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Unclebuck
12-25-2004, 10:15 AM
http://www.freep.com/sports/pistons/artest25e_20041225.htm





Behind the anger of bad-boy Artest

Friends: Hard life brings out brawler's best, worst
December 25, 2004







BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER



Let's look at the replay one more time. A little like Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca, who made that PowerPoint presentation a couple of weeks ago. Only not to lay blame, but to try to understand the man at the center of it all, Ron Artest.


THE ARTEST FILE
Position: Small forward.
Age: 25.

Stats: 6-feet-7, 246 pounds.

Career highlight: A potent offensive and defensive threat for the Indiana Pacers, Artest was the NBA defensive player of the year in the 2003-04 season, ending Piston Ben Wallace's two-year reign.

Drafted: 16th overall in 1999 by the Chicago Bulls. He left St. John's after his sophomore year. The Bulls traded him to Indiana in February 2002.

Disciplined: The NBA suspended Artest for the rest of this season for going into the stands to fight with fans in the Nov. 19 brawl at the Palace. Before this season, he had totals of $87,500 in fines and 15 games of suspensions in five years in the NBA.

Music: Artest tried to use the aftermath of the brawl to hawk his music label's CD. But according to Nielsen SoundScan, the album "Chapter III" by the women's R&B group Allure sold just 1,200 copies in its first two weeks.


Five weeks have passed since an ordinary NBA game became the "Malice at the Palace," the "Motown Melee," the "Basketbrawl" or whatever you want to call it. We've debated where it ranks among the lowlights of American sports history, how much it hurts Detroit's image, what it means. We've seen suspensions, criminal charges, lawsuits and appeals. Now, today in Indianapolis, the Pistons and Pacers will be back on the court together again.


And we still don't really know Artest.


We may never.


He's a mess of contradictions. Good but bad. Simple yet complicated. He's a sweet, approachable, giving guy who is fiercely competitive, sometimes strange and quick-tempered.


Consider this: Fran Fraschilla says he has "intimate knowledge" of Artest, having coached him when he was a freshman at St. John's University in New York. Still, even Fraschilla says, "I don't know what makes him tick."


OK. Let's start here. This is the first domino that fell the night of Nov. 19. Artest lays a hard foul on the Pistons' Ben Wallace, even though the Pacers are leading by 15 with less than a minute left. This illustrates Artest's competitiveness.


"How many guys in the league night in and night out play this hard, like a kamikaze, 80 to 90 games a year?" Fraschilla says. "That's part of his makeup, his greatest strength."


Artest is from New York. Not Manhattan, mind you. Queens. To be specific, the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing project in the nation.


His mother, Sarah, was a bank teller. His father, Ron Sr., did an assortment of jobs. There were nine kids in the house.


"A lot of times we were short on money," Ron Sr. says. "We made sure they had something to eat every day. But a lot of times if they needed sneakers, I didn't have the money. ...


"That's probably why he worked so hard to get where he's at."


Artest loved basketball. Say one of his brothers was playing on a community court. He would run up and down the sidelines shouting directions. Shoot! Rebound! Do this! Do that!


"He wasn't in the game," says Hank Carter, who has known Artest since he was 11 or 12. "But he was so enthused."


Rarely was Artest not in the game, though. He played all the time, morning, noon and night, in the heat of summer, the cold of winter, one-on-one with his father, face-to-face with the tough kids in the neighborhood.


Fraschilla saw something smoldering in Artest and used it to light a fire under his team during practices at St. John's.


"I would feign anger at him, put him on the second unit, and then all hell would break loose in terms of intensity," Fraschilla says. "He was so insulted to be put on the second team that the guys on the starting group feared him."


Artest took that intensity to the NBA.


"He has this fear of failure," Fraschilla says. "I think it is born out of not wanting to have to go back to Queensbridge without having any status. It's a pride and competitive thing."


This is a guy who plays pickup games during the season -- who once broke Michael Jordan's ribs during a summer pickup game.


"He really, really does not like to lose," says Jose Morales, who grew up with Artest at 41st Avenue and 12th Street. "That's not an option for him. Winning is everything. When he loses, it really frustrates him, because he probably feels he's letting down his family. He probably feels he's letting down his kids, and Ron loves kids a lot."



Showing his softer side
All right. Run the video for a second ... and stop it. Wallace retaliates by shoving Artest so hard, Artest flies backward with his arms reeling. Artest keeps backing off, trying to avoid a fight. Let's use this to talk about Artest's good side.


"People see him on the TV, thinking he's a thug," Morales says. "But he's nowhere next to that."


Carter runs Wheelchair Charities, a group that raises money for Goldwater Memorial Hospital in New York. He talks about a 12-year-old Artest who visited the hospital, a 14-year-old Artest who gave out turkeys on Thanksgiving.


When Artest was a junior in high school at LaSalle Academy, his AAU team was going to play in Paris. He stayed to play in the high school Wheelchair Classic.


"They were offering him the world to go," Carter says, "and he turned around and said, 'I'm playing for the people in the wheelchair.' "


When Artest was a senior at LaSalle, he lived with Carter for a couple of months. Every morning at 7:30, they went to church.


Every year now, Artest plays in the pro Wheelchair Classic. He's on the Wheelchair Charities board.


"If they knew how good a person he really is and how his heart is in the right place," Carter says, "they wouldn't say half of the things they do."


When Artest made the NBA, he spread the wealth -- too thin. His rookie year, 1999-2000 with the Chicago Bulls, he gave so much to family, friends and the community in general, he got into financial trouble.


"He wants to help more people out than he has money," says Ron Sr., for whom Ron Jr. pays the rent. "I mean, he's rich. But you can't think of everybody. He hasn't really learned that."


Ron Sr. laughs.


"People would say they need a new pair of shoes, and he'd go buy them a pair," Carter says. "I told Ron to stop. I'm a little different from Ron. I think he should help, but you've got to take care of you first and then you can help other people."


Morales runs Artest's Triple Threat Foundation, which runs programs for Queensbridge kids.


"Ron wanted us to keep the kids occupied, rather than have them have a lot of leisure time, so they don't have time to get into trouble," Morales says. "He loves kids. That's like his No. 1 priority, and that's what really hurt him about this whole incident, seeing kids crying on TV. He really took that to heart."


Morales talks about an Artest who comes back to Queensbridge to coach the kids, referee their games, take them to camp. Who reads the essays they have to do to play in his basketball tournament and gives out awards for the best writing. Who wants to build a state-of-the-art community center.


Over the summer, Artest went to a couple of elementary schools to talk to the kids.


Listen. I'm from your neighborhood. I'm from Queensbridge, too, and I'm just here to show you what can happen. Don't let nobody tell you because you're from Queensbridge or you're from any ghetto that it can't happen. It can happen.


"He don't have to do that," Morales says. "He's in the limelight now. He's got enough money to go wherever he wants. But he comes back to Queensbridge to work with these kids, and people really admire him for that. They love him for that even more.


"I tell everyone. I know a lot of NBA players. Show me one that does what this man does. You can't."


Says Fraschilla: "This much I can vouch for: He has a big heart away from the court, cares about people. He'll stop at a red light, pull out a $50 bill and pass it to a guy, then drive to the arena. Nobody will ever know. He's really good that way.


"Again, he's got issues."



Quite the eccentric
Let's fast-forward just a bit. Ignoring the commotion on the court, Artest reclines on the scorer's table, hands behind his head. Sure, he's keeping his cool. But he also grabs a headset from the Pacers' radio broadcasters as if to go on the air! This is Artest the oddball.


"He marches to the beat of a different drummer," Fraschilla says. "That's accurate."


There are so many stories.


There were the times St. John's went on the road and Artest would wear a court jester hat.


"We'd look at each other and shake our heads," Fraschilla says. "I don't know if there was any significance."


There was the time when Artest, then a rookie with the Bulls, applied for a job at a Chicago-area Circuit City so that he could get the employee discount. The time with the Bulls when he had a career-high seven steals, told reporters that steals came pretty easy for him, then matter-of-factly detailed shoplifting back in Queensbridge.


There was the country song he recorded with a 78-year-old Indiana neighbor named Doris.


Let's just look at recent history.


Before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pistons last season, he missed a practice, missed the team flight to Detroit and missed a shoot-around.


This season, he raised eyebrows when he changed his uniform number from 23 to 91 -- honoring former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman -- and raised more when he asked for time off because he was promoting a new R&B album for his TruWarier record label.


"I've been doing a little too much music, just needed the rest," Artest told reporters. "After the album comes out, I'm going to make sure all of my time is focused on winning a championship."


Again, people shook their heads.


"I think a little different," Carter says. "I think God comes first and then your job. I think that Ron has to understand that basketball gave him the chance to do a record."


Fraschilla doesn't buy the music thing. He says Artest must have been frustrated by something basketball-wise, and he expressed his frustration in a weird way.



'He blows like Mt. Vesuvius'
Well, here it is, the critical moment. A fan tosses a drink at Artest, the cup hits him near the face and he charges into the stands. All hell breaks loose. This is Artest out of control.


"I think Ron gets a little frustrated too quickly," Carter says. "I think that's the whole thing. I think that night ... Ron was more into a shock mode than anything else. When something comes at you, boom. It shocked him. He wasn't thinking when he jumped in there."


Says Fraschilla: "When he blows, he blows like Mt. Vesuvius."


The irony is that basketball was supposed to be the thing that helped Artest blow off steam, that kept him out of trouble.


Artest saw violence on the streets, and he saw violence at home. Ron Sr. reportedly hit Sarah.


"I don't even want to talk about that, because I don't want to talk about the negatives," Ron Sr. says.


Artest's parents separated, and he acted out when he was 8. There was an incident at school. He saw a counselor. The counselor suggested he take out his feelings on the court.


But there have been a number of eruptions on and off the court through the years.


Often Artest took out his anger on inanimate objects. He threw a 150-pound back-stretching machine and gouged the Bulls' practice court. Tore his picture off the wall after the Bulls traded him to the Pacers. Smashed a $100,000 TV camera at Madison Square Garden.


Other times he was more threatening. He confronted Miami coach Pat Riley during a game. He fought with Jennifer Palma, the mother of one of his four children.


According to an Indianapolis police report, on May 25, 2002, Palma said Artest "grabbed her around the neck and part of her arm," "grabbed her purse and threw it down the garbage chute" and "took the phone out of her hand as she called the police."


According to New York court records, that month Palma got a personal protection order. A couple of months later, Artest was charged with criminal contempt, aggravated harassment and harassment. He was ordered to take stress management and domestic violence intervention. After completing those courses, he was given a conditional discharge.


According to ESPN the Magazine, that fall there was an incident between Artest and Kimisha Hatfield, then his fiancée, now his wife and the mother of his other three children. Kim started to hit Ron, and Ron took the kids outside and called the police. He didn't hit her.


"If I did that," he told the magazine, "I should be in jail."



Artest's Achilles
Turn off the video for a minute. It seems fitting Artest's nickname is "Ron Ron." It's like he's two different people. What's the common thread here? Haven't people tried to help him?


"One of his greatest strengths is probably also one of his greatest weaknesses," says Mark Bartelstein, Artest's former agent. "He's very impulsive. ... Ron is not calculating with what he does. He just kind of thinks, 'OK, this is what I'd like to do today. I'm going to try to do it.' And that sometimes gets him in trouble."


Artest has always had people to help him, from people like Carter in Queensbridge, to his coaches in college, to a number of people in the NBA.


The league and players' union run all sorts of player support programs.


"We're in their face quite regularly, making them aware of the resources that are available to them," says Mike Bantom, the NBA's senior director of player development. "Our objective is to try to have a personal relationship with each player. To that extent, if someone I have a relationship with or one of my directors has a relationship with is showing signs of potential issues or potential problems, we will reach out to that player and try to assist him in some way."


But it's not that simple, getting help and making changes.


The Bulls traded Artest to Indiana during the 2001-02 season in part because they were tired of trying to help. The Pacers reportedly tried to trade him over the summer, when Bartelstein broke up with him because they didn't see eye to eye.


Bartelstein declines to talk about the situation in detail. The New York Daily News reported Artest had sought professional help for his mental health and was on prescription antidepressants. Bartelstein says: "I can't confirm or deny that. I don't want to get into any of that at all."


But Bartelstein speaks in general terms.


"I was really adamant about him having a plan, him having a plan of what he was trying to accomplish and sticking to the plan and staying consistent with that plan," Bartelstein says. "And that's just a really hard thing for him to do. ...


"There's a lot of people that have tried to help. I know how hard in my office here we've tried to help with him. But again, a lot of times, you can help someone as much as you want, but they've got to be willing to accept the help, and if they're not, then there's nothing you can do about it. You can't force someone to do something they don't want to do."



What's next?
OK. Turn the video back on. One last clip. A large man leads Artest off the court and down the tunnel toward the locker room with a hand over his face, protecting him from the debris fans are hurling at him. This is Artest disgraced, despised -- dismissed from the game.


"Ron Artest! Ron Artest!"


That's what Duke fans chanted earlier this month when Michigan State's Maurice Ager was called for an intentional foul. Artest is 25, the reigning NBA defensive player of the year. He should be a star on the rise. But he's suspended for the season, charged with assault and battery, and his name is synonymous with violence.


What now?


Attempts to reach Artest through several sources were unsuccessful. But his family and friends say he's fine, he'll be all right, he'll be back.


"I talked to him," Ron Sr. says. "I said, 'Ron, how you doing? How's everything?' 'Everything's good, Daddy.' He's very positive, upbeat."


Says Carter: "When I grew up, I was quick-tempered, too. But then after a while, I changed, and I think Ron's going to change. ... I think Ron is a great person with a super heart, and I just think he has to grab onto God a little bit more."


Morales says he doesn't think Artest needs anger-management classes.


"Ron's one of the most peaceful people I know," he says. "He's not like that at all. We know him. You can ask anybody in my neighborhood. You can ask the old folks in my neighborhood."


But Ron Sr. says Artest told him he was going to go to anger management, that it's the right thing to do.


"I think things are going to work out for him eventually," Ron Sr. says. "I think he'll be able to play again. I think he'll have everything under control. If anything like this happens again, I think he'll hesitate before he reacts. ...


"The consequences, what he has endured, I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to go through that again."


We'll see.


"He's got to have a plan and a program and stay with it and stay consistent," Bartelstein says. "If he does that, then he'll have a lot of success. But if he doesn't, it's that old story. You can spend hours and hours and hours putting a bunch of building blocks together, and it takes one moment to knock it all down."


Contact NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA at 313-222-8831 or cotsonika@freepress.com. Free Press sports writers Michael Rosenberg and Joe Swickard contributed to this report.

Unclebuck
12-25-2004, 10:34 AM
http://www.freep.com/sports/pistons/artest25e_20041225.htm






"One of his greatest strengths is probably also one of his greatest weaknesses," says Mark Bartelstein, Artest's former agent. "He's very impulsive. ... Ron is not calculating with what he does. He just kind of thinks, 'OK, this is what I'd like to do today. I'm going to try to do it.' And that sometimes gets him in trouble."






I think these comments describe Artest more accurately than any other comments I have ever read. He is impulsive

Unclebuck
12-25-2004, 10:36 AM
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But his family and friends say he's fine, he'll be all right, he'll be back.


"I talked to him," Ron Sr. says. "I said, 'Ron, how you doing? How's everything?' 'Everything's good, Daddy.' He's very positive, upbeat."


Says Carter: "When I grew up, I was quick-tempered, too. But then after a while, I changed, and I think Ron's going to change. ... I think Ron is a great person with a super heart, and I just think he has to grab onto God a little bit more."


But Ron Sr. says Artest told him he was going to go to anger management, that it's the right thing to do.


"I think things are going to work out for him eventually," Ron Sr. says. "I think he'll be able to play again. I think he'll have everything under control. If anything like this happens again, I think he'll hesitate before he reacts. ...


"The consequences, what he has endured, I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to go through that again."


We'll see.


"He's got to have a plan and a program and stay with it and stay consistent," Bartelstein says. "If he does that, then he'll have a lot of success. But if he doesn't, it's that old story. You can spend hours and hours and hours putting a bunch of building blocks together, and it takes one moment to knock it all down."





Some really good comments there

Outlaw
12-25-2004, 10:50 AM
Nice unbiased article.:)

PacerMan
12-25-2004, 11:29 AM
It also shows what the real problem is. That nobody is ever going to let this go away.
If he could return to the pre-fight NBA, MAYBE he could keep it together until he matures out of his impulsivness. But the fans (and the league) will never let that happen. He'll be ridden like the pony's outside wallyworld. THey'll never let up and he'll react is some minor way again. ES*****N will show it from 17 different angles (because they'll have a crew just taping HIM every night) and the NBA will ban him for another year.
He's a great player.
But it's not enough.

Anthem
12-26-2004, 01:17 AM
So... according to this article he's both on pills by his choice and he's in anger management by his choice. I don't know if it's true, although this is the Detroit writer we're talking about (I can't see why he'd feel the need to lie about that). The Pacers have steadfastly refused to comment on what kind of help he's getting, except to say that he'd getting it.

Is this why the Pacers brass doesn't seem to be giving up on him yet? Because they feel like he's trying to work it out?

sixthman
12-26-2004, 09:14 AM
The article was really well done. But is anyone else tired of reading about the same incidents over and over again?

The truth is Ron is a better human being and basketball player than most players in the NBA: that's why you don't give up on him. If he was crap as a person, I'd say drop him in a heart beat. He's not.

We'll see how we play without him. But I'm afraid he was a piece the current Pacers needed to take us to the top.

DisplacedKnick
12-26-2004, 09:19 AM
It also shows what the real problem is. That nobody is ever going to let this go away.

The real problem is that when you put Ron in an intensely competitive situation he can't control himself. He's a great basketball talent but he needs to find another line of work.