The Pacers have overplayed their hand with Artest
January 9, 2006
Is Indiana GM Donnie Walsh really stubborn enough to not trade Ron Artest? Artest himself thought it possible last week: "I don't know, I'm starting to think I'm not going to be traded this season." Tuesday marks one month since Artest's trade request, and he's still gathering up dust on the inactive list. No wonder, then, that comments like these make Pacers fans cringe and Artest's fantasy owners recoil in terror.
Artest has become the village bicycle of the NBA's rumor mill in his brief time on the block. Suitors have included Denver, Sacramento, Atlanta, Minnesota, the Clippers, the Lake Show and, most recently, the Warriors, in a deal that was supposed to have been consummated last Friday (it wasn't). If so many teams have a serious interest in Artest, why has he been so tough to trade?
Because the Pacers have overplayed their hand. In dubbing Artest a "top-12" player when this saga began, Donnie Walsh set himself up to look like a failure if he gets anything less than a surefire franchise cornerstone in return for his talented headcase. Indiana coach Rick Carlisle didn't help matters by taking the Artest hyperbole up a notch last week, saying: "Whoever ends up with him is going to get a top-10 player ... a bona fide All-Star, and maybe the best two-way player in the game." Isn't Carlisle just making Walsh's life more difficult?
After all, even if the salary cap wasn't a factor, it's easy to name 12 players no sane GM would trade for Ron Artest:
1. Shaquille O'Neal
2. Kobe Bryant
3. Tracy McGrady
4. Dwyane Wade
5. Kevin Garnett
6. Dirk Nowitzki
7. Steve Nash
8. LeBron James
9. Tim Duncan
10. Vince Carter
11. Elton Brand
12. Shawn Marion
See? We all know that Artest isn't a top-12 player, and so do NBA GMs. Still, figuring out exactly where Artest ranks is tough: How many other players can you name who are better than Ronnie? Chances are, not many. So how will it look when the game's "best two-way player" gets dealt for a package of, say, Ike Diogu and Mickeal Pietrus? [ed. - I'll answer that: ]
One thing seems clear: Donnie Walsh will need to wise up and make concessions to move his troubled star. This is the same league in which Shaq once got traded for Lamar Odom and Vinsanity got traded for a post-transplant Alonzo Mourning and some virtual nobodies. The Pacers are 6-6 since the Artest sweepstakes began, and they show no signs of emerging from their malaise until a deal gets done.