Owner worked to help Artest
Herb Simon joined other Pacers officials in their effort to get player reinstated.
By Mark Montieth
March 25, 2005
Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon broke his public silence on Ron Artest's seasonlong suspension Thursday.
His primary message: His silence shouldn't be confused with agreement with NBA commissioner David Stern's penalty or lack of concern for Artest.
Simon, contacted by The Indianapolis Star on Thursday, said that he, Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh and team president Larry Bird worked behind the scenes on a virtual daily basis to have Artest's penalty reduced for his part in the Nov. 19 brawl at Detroit.
Stern admitted to considering a reduction in Artest's suspension that would allow the All-Star forward to play this season, but said Monday he has decided to uphold it. Artest will rejoin the Pacers for games next season, although he is currently allowed to practice with the team.
"We tried to play this the right way," Simon said. "We're team players, we follow the rules of the league and we don't go public. But our fans and players should know that Donnie and Larry and I have been working on this thing consistently since the day of the incident."
Simon, Walsh and Bird flew to New York to meet with Stern and other league representatives at the NBA's headquarters on Dec. 1 to make a formal appeal for a reduction in Artest's penalty. They held out hope it would happen until Stern's announcement earlier this week.
"It's hard for me to fathom," Simon said. "In earlier meetings he gave suggestions of what Ron can do to rehabilitate himself. Ron and his people have done everything they've asked and then some.
"The biggest problem is the misperception of Ronnie. He's given back to his community forever, has come out of a tough environment, has not messed around with drugs, has the best work ethic of anybody . . . He's not the kind of person people think. Yes, he made a mistake, but there were a lot of elements there. Even though we were responsible for part of it, the burden fell too heavily on us."
Simon said he still wants to appeal for Artest's reinstatement this season, but admitted, "I don't know where to go from here."
Simon, who along with his brother, Mel, bought the Pacers in 1983, said he hopes changes can be made in how major penalties such as those the Pacers received are imposed and reviewed. Currently, the commissioner has sole authority to issue suspensions and hear appeals.
"We all have to take a step back to review the process," he said. "There's got to be a better way."
Call Star reporter Mark Montieth at (317) 444-6406.