Trade this guy and let us get on with our lives
I believe I speak for a large segment of humanity, and most Indiana Pacers fans, when I ask the following question:
Donnie Walsh would cut off the nose to spite the face, let Ron Artest rot in hoops purgatory while his short-handed team kills itself trying to earn a fifth seed in the Eastern Conference?
Tell me Walsh is just using that as a public ploy to get some kind of leverage. Tell me that's not an option. Tell me that was just frustration talking.
Artest was the catalyst who ruined last season. How could management let Artest do it for a second straight year?
If the Pacers punish Artest by giving him the Terrell Owens treatment, they will also punish the people who least deserve to pay for Artest's missteps -- his (former) Indiana teammates.
"If (Artest) stays on the inactive list, how does that help us?'' Jermaine O'Neal said late Friday night, long after his team had beaten the Utah Jazz at the Fieldhouse. "I respect everything Donnie does. I respect how he runs the organization, his decision-making, and he's one of the guys who says something, and his word is good. But not trading him doesn't help us. Bring us somebody who can make us better. Give us something we can look forward to.
"If he's on the inactive list, he's still damaging the team we have now, and that's not right.''
At times, O'Neal's well-intentioned forays into team management are misguided. For example, his desire to pursue Bonzi Wells ignores the fact he was such a bad actor in Memphis that the Grizzlies basically fired him in the middle of the playoffs. On this issue, though, he couldn't be more correct.
Nobody is insisting Walsh should make a deal in the next 10 minutes. But he's got to make a deal, even if -- even though -- he's not going to get fair value. What kind of value does he get if he leaves Artest on the inactive list? Management's disappointment and anger are understandable, and it might feel good to make Artest sit for a second straight year. But ultimately, who gets hurt here?
The Indiana Pacers.
The guys who (literally) already have taken punches for the guy who abandoned them.
They deserve a deal.
And they deserve one sooner rather than later.
"As long as (Artest) is around here, we'll never be able to put this behind us,'' O'Neal said. "There are always going to be interviews, stories, 'Should he come back? Will he come back?' Now, he's going on local TV and all the radio stations, talking about this. We've had enough of it already. It's time to move on.''
Everybody knows that Walsh -- and, presumably, Larry Bird, although he's in Europe now -- have no leverage. And they're trying to get Artest for a smelly jock and a case of Gatorade. Sometimes, though, you've got to hold your breath and do what has to be done.
This is a salvaging job. This is getting Scot Pollard rather than lose Brad Miller for nothing. Management made a terrible mistake by holding onto Artest as long as it did; the greater mistake would be to compound it by holding on to him in the dubious hope his value will increase down the line.
They know they need another low-post presence, a guy who can play a number of different positions. But what they're going to get is a body or two. And whatever they get in return won't be nearly enough to make up for the fact that in the past two years, the Pacers have not only lost Artest, but lost Brad Miller, Reggie Miller and Jonathan Bender for next to nothing.
"I still think a Bonzi or an Al Harrington would be the best way to go,'' O'Neal said. "Nothing against (Peja) Stojakovic, but I don't know how his game would play in this (Eastern) conference.''
Just get somebody.
And get him soon.
Let's make this clear, in case it wasn't clear already: The door to Artest's return to the Indiana Pacers is shut. It's deadbolted. It's slammed, sealed, hermetically sealed and Super Glued.
Artest can tell us he now wants to come back, and nothing is going to change.
The divorce is final. It's just a matter of paperwork now.
The truth is, and has been for quite some time now, the players do not want him. They haven't for a long time.
"Addition by subtraction,'' Austin Croshere called it. "Now, not having to deal with him, it's really a welcome sigh of relief."
O'Neal, who has tried over the years to make Artest part of the Pacers' family, is adamant, and he can't be blamed.
"We can never play together,'' he said. "If he came back somehow, it would be him or me.''
And Rick Carlisle, too.
After all of the foolishness, all of the madness, all of the miscalculations by a front office that should have known better, there is only one thing worse than a bad deal.
That's no deal.
Bob Kravitz is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star. Call him at (317) 444-6643 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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