Q. Now, Ron Artest is remorseful and would like to return to the Pacers. But, according Jermaine O'Neal the decision is clear, he should not be allowed back. What do you think goes through Donnie Walsh's head right now? What do you think is best for the team right now? Team chemistry (and we are 4-1 without Artest) or getting a very talented but very troubled young player back, who might not be able to co-exist beside team leader O'Neal? To me the decision seems very clear. What is your take on the current situation? (From Jacob in Copenhagen, Denmark)
A. This scenario has taken about as many twists and turns as you might expect, given the central character. I certainly can't read Artest's mind so I can't speak to the level of remorse he truly feels, but I suspect it really doesn't matter because the damage cannot be undone. Had he made the trade request in one exclusive interview, it would be much easier to attempt to back-track, to say he was speaking out of emotion and that he didn't intend to stir up a controversy. The fact he essentially staged a two-day media campaign to state his case for a trade eliminated any doubt about his intentions.
It's interesting that the public display of remorse came on the heels of Walsh's statement that the Pacers would leave Artest on the inactive list all season long if they couldn't find a suitable trade. Perhaps Artest and his agent realized another season off the NBA radar screen would do irreparable damage to his future earning power. Of course, the timing could be coincidental.
Artest may have changed his mind but I've seen no indication of that from the Pacers. Walsh has stated his case quite clearly: he acknowledged Artest's trade request and is working to make the best deal possible. Jermaine O'Neal has made his feelings known, repeatedly saying that he will never again play with Artest. Elder statesman Austin Croshere has essentially supported O'Neal's position. The only player leaving the door open is Stephen Jackson.
The most important statement has been made in the team's performance, winning four of the last five games and generally playing with a high level of cohesion and energy. The Pacers are not only moving on, they're moving forward.