SPECIAL MIDWEEK EDITION Test Ron should scare off Kings
By Marc Stein
(Editor's note: ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein supplies each item for this midweek around-the-league notebook edition of the Daily Dime.)
The Sacramento Kings have not yet won the Ron Artest Sweepstakes . . . assuming you dare to call this a sweepstakes.
The Kings were far luckier than that Tuesday.
They got a one-day free preview of Life With Ron-Ron without actually trading for him.
If they're smart, it should be sufficient to convince the Kings not to go through with this deal, even if Artest pulls one of his trademark 180s and begs to be Sacto-bound on Wednesday.
Yes: Peja Stojakovic will be a free agent in July and the Kings, with roughly zero shot at keeping him after Tuesday's events, have to make sure they get something for Peja before the Feb. 23 trading deadline.
And yes: It's hard to imagine how Stojakovic could play another game for the Kings after they told him he was headed to Indy -- and after Peja told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan in Philadelphia that he feels "disrespected" by the whole episode -- but smoothing all that out would be a minor undertaking compared to the Kings' apparent belief that they can make Artest a cornerstone of their plans to rebuild.
Geoff Petrie, if he's still Geoff Petrie, should be able to see that better than ever.
The Kings traded Chris Webber almost a year ago and decided to start over because A) they didn't think Webber would willingly scale back his game to be a second or third option behind Stojakovic and Mike Bibby and B) they didn't think his surgically repaired knee was sturdy enough to keep propping up the franchise.
It should nonetheless be pretty clear after the one-day free preview that Artest is no more dependable than Webber's knee.
Try (far) less dependable.
Artest is saying now that he simply wants a chance to meet with any prospective new team before a trade goes through, but surely you don't believe that an Artest about-face would hold any significance. Can you believe anything he says anymore? He changes his story daily, sometimes twice on the same day.
You're also dreaming if you think that all he needs some face-to-face love from the Maloof Bros. to buy into Sacto as an Artest kind of town. I'm a fan of the Maloofs, and it's hard not to be, but it's a lot harder to imagine an organization and city more nurturing/forgiving/enabling than the Pacers and Indianapolis have been. Artest received multiple second chances in Indy, and none of them got him any closer to reliable.
Artest might respond to the Lakers' Phil Jackson.
He might click with a fellow eccentric like George Karl in Denver.
He might be willing to be a good teammate (for a while) alongside Minnesota's Kevin Garnett.
Yet even those scenarios are maybes.
The Kings don't have the clear-cut franchise player or the coach with a hammer or the big-city allure to keep Artest committed to the team concept. Golden State really doesn't, either. Unless you've got those prerequisites, dealing for Artest goes beyond mere risk.
I have questions, too, about why Indiana would want this deal, but the overriding reason is that the Pacers have finally reached the point, after more than 40 days of this trade torture, that they simply want to make any deal. That has to be the reason, because parting with what they consider to be a prized asset for a free agent-to-be like Stojakovic -- at a time when Indy is trying to shave payroll to get away from the luxury-tax line -- doesn't sound like a typical Donnie Walsh move. One of the reasons none of Indy's talks with Denver reached completion, remember, is because Nene is also a free agent-to-be and thus probably too expensive for the Pacers to re-sign. If it brings in Stojakovic, Indy risks losing him for nothing at season's end. (Or perhaps the Pacers' secret motivation is assembling a Peja sign-and-trade in the off-season that would most likely signal a total redo of its roster . . . one that potentially includes the relocation of Jermaine O'Neal as well.)
I'm a lot less successful when I try to dig up a reason or two for the Kings to resurrect this thing. Smoothing things over with Peja, at least until they can find another deal, looks more appealing to me.
Trading Peja for Artest would give the Kings two more seasons, until the summer of 2008, with a player of All-Star caliber at a reasonable price: Artest is owed $15 million in 2006-07 and '07-08 before he has the right to declare for free agency. This assumes, of course, that he'd actually be a willing teammate all that time. I wouldn't bet a tenner at The Palms that Artest makes it to the end of this season without incident if he became a King.
With Bonzi Wells as a teammate?
The Kings already know what it's like to trade for a player who has reservations about Sacramento. The trade Petrie swung to get Webber turned out to be one of the greatest heists in NBA history.
But Webber's knee X-ray back then was not nearly as ghastly as Artest's reputation for, uh, unpredictability. That was a fraction of the gamble this would be, especially since the Kings were a nothing-to-lose laughingstock in those days. Their mission now is finding a way back to the elite.
This ain't it.
A wise GM once said that sometimes the best trades are the ones you agree to and then back out of. The Kings will be very, very lucky if Petrie says that to himself when the Pacers call back.