August 24, 2004
Ron Artest was not so bold as to say things would be different if he were in Greece, just that he'd love to be there.
He's more than a little irritated that no one asked him to be.
"I was the [NBA] Defensive Player of the Year and didn't get an invite," the Pacers forward said. "It's frustrating not to have gotten a phone call."
Artest spoke yesterday at Park Avenue Country Club in Manhattan, promoting the 12th annual All-Star Classic, which benefits Wheelchair Charities. The game will be played Sept. 15 at Alumni Hall, where Artest played for St. John's.
Even before the Olympics started, USA Basketball received criticism for its selection process. It produced a team with poor outside shooting, defensive liabilities and a lackadaisical attitude. The 6-7 Artest said he has watched the Olympics on television and can understand why fans have been turned off.
"I think fans are upset because of what they see as a lack of effort," Artest said. "Although I don't think it's that the U.S. isn't playing hard, I think the other teams are playing hard, too."
Perhaps more galling to fans, and to Artest, is the idea that the Olympics have become meaningless to NBA stars and with that, the Dream Team concept has been eviscerated. Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett all passed on the opportunity to be in the Olympics.
"I was one of the guys who wanted to be there," Artest said. "Look, so many guys turned it down. After all the top guys, there's room for me.
"I don't know what it was. All I know is it's something that only comes along every four years and I would have liked to have been part of it. I'd have been the water boy or the manager or whatever. I wanted to go."