Good quote about IT not wanting to part with young players and other tid-bits.
Lakers interested in Artest
Jackson thinks highly of Artest
By Ross Siler, Staff Writer
The Lakers have interest in Pacers forward Ron Artest, who has alienated many in Indiana by his request to be traded. (Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Lakers - and coach Phil Jackson, in particular - have strong interest in acquiring troubled Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest, a source close to the team said Wednesday.
But the Lakers are not willing to part with forward Lamar Odom in a trade package and are uncertain whether they even will be among the league's leading contenders to land Artest, who demanded a trade over the weekend.
The Lakers have come together recently - winning five of six games on a long road trip that ended with a 94-79 victory at Memphis Wednesday - but Jackson is said to believe the team could advance deep in the Western Conference playoffs with Artest.
Although Artest was suspended 73 games last season for his part in the NBA's most infamous brawl, Jackson spoke in positive terms about the 26-year-old forward - a former All-Star and defensive player of the year - before Monday's game in Dallas.
"I don't see how you're going to get value out of this player who in my estimation is one of the most valuable players in the league," Jackson said. "Of course, I estimate him perhaps higher than other people. But I think he's a terrific player. He adds a big dimension to every game he plays in."
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak would not comment Wednesday on any player under contract to another team or address trade rumors. He added that Jackson probably would speak similarly about 15 to 20 other players across the league.
The Lakers are not even sure the Pacers ultimately will decide to trade Artest, though Indiana CEO Donnie Walsh said Monday the team would try. The problem comes in getting comparable players for Artest, who will make $6.8 million this season.
Most NBA stars are paid nearly double what Artest is making and the league's salary-cap rules require teams to approximately match player salaries in a trade.
In a Saturday interview with the Indianapolis Star, Artest said in a "perfect world" he would go home and play for the New York Knicks. Isiah Thomas, the Knicks' president of basketball operations, is believed to have coveted Artest for some time.
Speaking before New York's game Wednesday against the Orlando Magic, Isiah Thomas said he contacted the Pacers, but he won't trade any of his young players - such as Channing Frye, Nate Robinson and David Lee - for Artest.
What the Lakers could best offer for Artest - if they refuse to trade Odom - probably would be either forward Kwame Brown or forward Devean George and teenage center Andrew Bynum.
Brown could play center for the Pacers and allow Jermaine O'Neal to play power forward. George could replace Artest at small forward and is a talented defender. Bynum was the Lakers' first-round pick and has shown potential despite being only 18.
The Lakers might stand a better chance of winning during the three years Jackson is under contract to coach by moving Bynum, though the franchise's long-term future might be best served by keeping the 7-foot-1 big man.
Odom, meanwhile, is the last player remaining from the trade that sent Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat and is averaging 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists in one of the best seasons of his career.
Jackson has said he returned to coaching with the belief that he could use Odom much as he once did Scottie Pippen in the triangle offense.
The possibility of an Odom-Artest pairing is intriguing because the two are friends from New York. Odom spoke out in support of Artest following last season's brawl and said Monday the two crossed paths a couple of times during the summer.
"He seemed like he was just ready to play," Odom said. "I was surprised by (the trade demand). You never know. ... My grandmother always said, 'You don't know what's going on in somebody else's house.' "
As coach of the Chicago Bulls, Jackson found a way to reach Dennis Rodman, the player in whose honor Artest used to wear No. 91. Jackson praised Artest on Monday as possibly being the best two-way player in the league and values his defense highly.
But trouble seems to follow Artest, and the question is whether a simple change of scenery is enough. The Lakers would ask only that Artest not be a disruption and seem to agree with what the seventh-year forward told the Indianapolis Star.
"I still think my past haunts me in this place," Artest told the newspaper. "I think somewhere else, I'm starting fresh. I'm coming in with baggage but people already know about it and how I'm going to be. Either they're going to be for me or they're not going to trade for me."