Stojakovic for Artest 'just talk,' Bird says
Kings don't plan to trade their scoring star, Pacers president says he was told.
By Sekou Smith
August 13, 2004
Rarely does a talented team escape the speculative nature of the NBA's annual free agency free-for-all.
Count the Indiana Pacers among that group.
But while the trade rumors continue to swirl, Pacers president Larry Bird has quashed one proposed move -- for now, at least.
The Ron Artest-Peja Stojakovic All-Star swap is a product of someone's imagination and not a deal that is imminent, Bird said.
"It's all speculation," Bird said. "Peja wanting to be traded has nothing to do with Ronnie. It's all just talk."
Sacramento's Stojakovic, a three-time All-Star and 3-point specialist, requested a trade last week.
Artest's name was mentioned as a possibility after Stojakovic's agent, David Bauman, said that Bird had inquired about such a deal in June.
Bird said he had an informal conversation with Kings director of player personnel Jerry Reynolds before the Pacers traded for Altanta's Stephen Jackson.
A deal involving the two players would qualify under NBA salary cap rules because their salaries match closely enough, or the Pacers could include a minimum salary player. Stojakovic will be paid $6.875 million next season. Artest will receive $6.2 million.
Reynolds, according to Bird, made it clear that the Kings would not trade Stojakovic, who led the Kings in scoring last season and was second in the league with a 24.2-ppg average.
Artest, the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is considered equally valuable by the Pacers.
"I don't know why people are so quick to assume we'd even be interested in thinking about trading Ronnie," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "The fact is, there are going to be rumors about this and that. If one guy asks to be traded, everybody looks around. Those things just happen."
The Kings aren't operating like a team that intends to trade Stojakovic. They signed David Bluthenthal on Tuesday to be Stojakovic's backup.
"He's a perfect backup for Peja," Reynolds told the Sacramento Bee.
Bauman's plan to pressure the Kings' ownership into a trade has been fruitless. The Maloof brothers repeatedly have stated that they are not shopping the 27-year-old Stojakovic.
Bird echoed similar sentiments about the prospect of trading Artest, who did not return repeated calls from The Star.
"It's hard to even talk about it," Bird said. "I know Ronnie is very valuable to this team, so it would be hard to really think about moving him."
Thank you Larry and Rick