KG and Artest together. Oh my
Posted on Wed, Dec. 28, 2005
Artest piques Wolves' interest
Pacers eager to unload malcontent
BY RICK ALONZO
The Timberwolves contacted the Indiana Pacers last week and are interested in acquiring all-star Ron Artest, a source said Tuesday.
The discussions have not turned serious, and no formal trade offers have been made, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Wolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale declined to comment through a spokesman, citing league rules against tampering with players under contract with other teams.
Artest's agent said his client would be excited to play with Wolves all-star Kevin Garnett.
"Ron, he loves K.G.," agent Mark Stevens said. "He loves his game. It would be an honor and a privilege to play by his side."
Donnie Walsh, the Indiana Pacers' CEO and president, said about 10 teams are involved in the Artest discussions.
It would make sense that the Pacers, considered an Eastern Conference heavyweight, would want to trade Artest to a Western Conference team such as Minnesota. That would mean the Pacers wouldn't have to face Artest and his new team in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Walsh said more Western Conference teams are involved in the Artest talks than Eastern Conference teams.
"For sure I want to get this narrowed down by the end of the week to see what's real and not real," Walsh said. "You really don't have a deal until you do it. As of right now, there's a lot of interest. There's no deal close."
Walsh said he could be interested in taking a player whose contract is expiring in order to possibly gain salary-cap relief next summer.
Artest makes $6.5 million this season. To make a trade work under NBA rules, the salaries of players involved would have to be in the same ballpark. Walsh said he wouldn't be opposed to trading for a player with a salary higher than Artest's.
There have been reports of Indiana possibly using a three-team trade, but Walsh said he is not interested in a "big package deal" involving three or four Pacers.
Artest told the Indianapolis Star this month he wanted to be traded and then changed his mind. But the Pacers remain committed to parting with Artest, who has had a history of issues.
He forever will be linked to perhaps the ugliest moment in NBA history when he charged into the stands and attacked a fan who threw a drink at him at Detroit in November 2004, touching off a brawl involving the Pacers and fans.
Artest was suspended for the rest of the season — 73 games plus the playoffs — and lost about $5 million in salary, the harshest penalty in league history.
Artest also is infamous for asking for time off earlier last season in part to promote a rap album.
In 2003-04, he drew two suspensions from the NBA. In 2002-03, he missed 12 games after being hit with five suspensions by the league and one by the Pacers.
Artest's talent can't be questioned. He was named NBA defensive player of the year in 2004. This season, he is leading the league in steals with an average of 2.63 a game to go with 19.4 points. He has played in only 16 games.
Wolves special assistant Fred Hoiberg was Artest's teammate for 2˝ seasons before the Chicago Bulls traded Artest to Indiana in February 2002.
"What I know of him right now, he's one of the best players in the league," Hoiberg said. "Ron, he's going to have issues, I guess, wherever he goes because of what happened with the brawl. What I remember of Ron, he was a great person. He had some days where he fought some demons. But for the most part, I got along with him great and so did our other teammates."
Hoiberg said Artest was generous with his time off the court, doing charity work with children. But it is Artest's talent that stands out the most.
"I think we had gone 0-15 on a couple previous road trips," Hoiberg said. "Then one night he shut down Gary Payton in the fourth quarter, and then the next night he shut down Chris Webber in the fourth quarter. We won both games. He's very versatile. He can post you up, shoot the three, play defense. From a playing standpoint, he's as good as there is in our league."
Rick Alonzo can be reached at email@example.com.