Artest prefers to be fixture in Indiana
By Sekou Smith
August 15, 2004
LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Seemingly everyone except Ron Artest has discussed the rumored trade of All-Stars involving the Indiana Pacers forward and Sacramento forward Peja Stojakovic.
Saturday afternoon, Artest set the record straight on what he thinks of the trade talk.
"I was told the rumors about me being traded weren't true, but I haven't spoken to (Pacers president Larry) Bird," Artest said. "I know a lot of Indiana fans don't like it; they don't want me to go. Obviously, it's a business. But everywhere I go, people tell me they are not feeling it."
That was certainly the mood here, where the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans for two hours at Tippecanoe Mall.
"He's an Indiana Pacer and we need to keep it that way," said Arlen Jackson, who waited in the back of the line.
Stojakovic's recent demand that he be traded ignited speculation that a deal between the Pacers and Kings was in the works.
A straight-up 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, and Artest will receive $6.2 million.
The revelation from Stojakovic's agent David Bauman that Bird had inquired about such a deal in June fueled the rumors.
Bird dismissed the talk as pure speculation last week, but the chatter has continued.
"You never know," Artest said. "(Stojakovic) is a good player, a good player. If they trade me for him, the Pacers would be good. The Kings would be real good, too. Real good.
"But I made a long-term commitment to the Indiana Pacers. Even when I came here, a lot of guys didn't have faith in me. They thought I was going to be a knucklehead. Some people really didn't want me here, but I made up my mind to show people that I could change a little bit, that I could improve and do my thing here the way I wanted to."
Doing things his way includes operating without representation. Artest said he fired his agent, Mark Bartelstein, two weeks ago because he didn't feel like he was given the attention he needed.
"You can do it yourself," said Artest, who is armed with the security of a seven-year, $42 million deal he signed with the Pacers before the 2002-03 season.
In addition to working out, Artest has been busy with his fledgling record label (Tru Warier Entertainment), his upcoming solo rap album and the release of a country-and-western-themed single with a 78-year-old Zionsville, Ind., neighbor that he identified simply as "Doris."
"I just got a deal for my own clothing line and a signature sneaker through LA Gear," Artest said. "I've got a lot of stuff going on."
Artest said he also is working out the details for a celebrity fund-raiser weekend -- complete with baseball and softball tournaments, a talent show and a barbeque -- that he will host Sept. 11 and 12. Proceeds will benefit several local charities, including the fund that supports Indianapolis Public Schools athletic programs, Artest said.
It is all a part of a plan to give back to a community that Artest said welcomed him without reservation after he was acquired from Chicago in February 2002.
"Indiana took me in," Artest said. "I live here (in the offseason). I stay here. I'm out on the street here, in the 'hoods here, and I like it. I'm here."