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In his first televised interview since shortly after the infamous Nov. 19 brawl, Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest opened up to ESPN's Jim Gray on Wednesday.
Artest discussed a range of topics, including his responsibility in the brawl, his meeting with NBA commissioner David Stern and dealing with his season-long suspension.
Below is the transcript of the interview.
Gray: "How much damage has been done to Ron Artest by himself?" Artest: "I take part of the ownership for what happened, so I did a lot of damage to myself that I am going to correct."
Gray: "How much damage has been done to the Indiana Pacers?" Artest: "The Indiana Pacers are about winning and they never had an incident like this occur. Not having one of your key players and they're still in the playoffs. But it's a little bit harder for people to say I still think Indiana could win. Ron Artest not playing with the Indiana Pacers is not a good thing."
Gray: "You just said you are going to correct it. In what way and how?" Artest: "You have to improve yourself. You get older, you mature, and you have to improve yourself. And you should want to improve yourself if things are not going the right way ... I'm going to make sure I improve myself and when I go into these away arenas, and even in my home arena, I'm going to be there to play basketball."
Gray: "And how much damage do you think has been done to the NBA?" Artest: "I'm not sure exactly. Things happen. The beer cup was thrown. You can't take it back, because it happened already, so the best thing to do is move on and I forgive everyone that did things towards me. People who kind of got my emotions to run a little bit high. I've forgiven."
Gray: "Is it hard for you to control your anger?" Artest: "It's very easy. I could have easily, on Nov. 19 when we beat Detroit, I could have easily reacted against Ben Wallace, but I chose to not react. I chose to take the high road. We were winning the game and at that point, if anybody was to get pushed, they were wanting to react, but as you could see I just said OK, my team is in control, and I just wanted to go home."
Gray: "But if you had the mechanism to control your anger with Ben Wallace, why wasn't that mechanism in place 20 seconds later when you were lying down when the beer came?" Artest: "I didn't expect Ben Wallace to react as he did and I never had beer thrown in my face before. Nobody ever just threw anything at me, with the exception of a few times, but nobody ever just came up to me and threw beer in my face. Sometimes, I ask people, 'What would you have done in that situation?' and get different feedback. I get mixed answers."
Gray: "How certain are you that this won't happen again?" Artest: "I'm positive. I think things happen in someone's life and you have to go do things to know how to make the right decision the next time. I know what I did wasn't right. It was only a cup. It wasn't like it was a brick. I realize that and I realize now that it's more important for me to be playing than be home watching the games."
Gray: "What have you missed most about the NBA and NBA games?" Artest: "I miss playing defense, first off. I also miss driving middle, passing to Jermaine O'Neal on the baseline. I miss being with my teammates, James Jones, Jamaal Tinsley, those guys ... [Stephen] Jackson, Reggie [Miller]. I miss winning. I miss competing against the best. I miss my highlights on ESPN."
Gray: "What's it like to practice with your teammates?" Artest: "It's fun, especially when guys ask me for advice, for tips on how to guard certain people and they open their arms to me, welcome me back. It's hard at first, because I'm not there fighting the battles with them as far as playing, and that's the hardest thing for me. But for them to open their arms to me, it makes this whole situation a little bit easier."
Gray: "And then you go away and watch the games. You're sitting on your couch or wherever you may be. What's the feeling when you're sitting there helpless?" Artest: "It's not a good feeling, like when they lost the other night to Detroit. I kind of thought we were going to sweep Detroit. I just had that much confidence in the Pacers. When we lost to Boston, those couple games that we lost, you just feel like you could go out there and help them. Helping Jermaine maybe, helping Jamaal if somebody is driving by him, driving in the lane and passing to AJ for a jumper, setting a screen for Reggie. And it's like all you can do is say, 'James Jones, box out,' and that's all you can do. Your talking to the TV. You just wish you could be out there."
Gray: "You met with the commissioner. How did that meeting go?" Artest: "I love the commissioner. He's just like he is on TV and that's most likely how he is in person. He's just a good guy. He represents himself well. He's like the daddy, father of the NBA. Sometimes, you got to discipline your kids."
Gray: "Did he shake your hand? Did he have physical contact?" Artest: "He shook my hand. He gave me a hug, was real respectful, wasn't offensive at all, so it was a great day."
Gray: "Are you receiving counseling and some form of therapy?" Artest: "I'm not receiving counseling. At the same time, I'm improving myself. I had a lot of time to think and reflect on my season. I had a lot of time to find ways to improve myself. If you think about it, when you are playing a profession season, more like the NBA season, I had about six months off. You never get that much time, especially if it's in a championship in June, you get two months off. You never get that time with your family. You never get that time to think about how you want your life to go. I had six months, you could say two NBA seasons if you want to get technical with it, to sort of improve myself and think about how I can get my life better. How can I make my life change for the positive? And I had that much time to think about it."
"I miss playing defense, first off. I also miss driving middle, passing to Jermaine O'Neal on the baseline. I miss being with my teammates, James Jones, Jamaal Tinsley, those guys ... [Stephen] Jackson, Reggie [Miller]. I miss winning. I miss competing against the best. I miss my highlights on ESPN."