Very interesting read
Picture this Artest as a Bull
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
So, where does the trade that sent two All-Stars in Ron Artest and Brad Miller plus Ron Mercer and Kevin Ollie to the Indiana Pacers in return for Travis Best and Jalen Rose rank among the worst boo-boos in Chicago sports history? In the same zip code as Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio? Somewhere between the mindless release of Bobby Hull and the premature farewell to Greg Maddux?
Judge for yourself tonight, when Artest and the Pacers visit the United Center for the final time this season. What you will see in Artest is everything the Bulls can use more of these days, a lot of what head coach Scott Skiles and general manager John Paxson want them to be like in the future. A guy who defends like a Doberman on the Raw Food Diet, rebounds, passes, shoots and absolutely hates to lose.
And to think the Bulls drafted Artest with the 16th overall pick five years ago (take a bow, Jerry Krause), only to dump him in a panic move only three years later (take a hike, Jerry Krause).
"It's nothing like, 'Yeah, I proved everyone wrong,' '' said Artest, whose $7 million salary makes him one of the biggest steals in the league. "I'm happy because the team is playing well. That's the reason (for his selection). If you think about it, there are a lot of people putting up big numbers, but they're not winning."
In the two-plus seasons Artest spent here, only ORD had more baggage. He lived with his wife near the team practice facility, while his ex-girlfriend and their three kids resided in New York. Deerfield police answered so many emergency calls to his residence, the village considered an express lane. When they arrived, Artest often was found locked up alone in a bedroom.
If there's one thing Artest loves more than basketball — nay, the only thing — then it's his family. One day his young daughter called on the phone. Daddy, I haven't seen you in a long time. I miss you so much. Can you come home now? Pleeeeeze? Sure enough, Artest was on the next flight to New York. Trouble was, he blew off practice in the process. Didn't tell a soul, either. It wasn't until hours later that Artest contacted the team to let them know of his whereabouts.
You want bizarre? There was the halftime at the United Center two years ago, shortly after Bill Cartwright took over as head coach. While Cartwright discussed the game plan with his players in the locker room, one of them suddenly took off his sneakers ... socks ... jersey ... shorts ... jock. Faster than you could say Chippendale, who but Artest stood buck naked in front of his locker while stunned teammates picked their jaws up off the floor.
Yet, the biggest problem wasn't that Artest brought so many demons with him from the streets of Queensbridge, N.Y. After all, if the NBA consisted of only players without issues, then it would be a two-team league. No, the problem was that Krause and head coach Tim Floyd — especially Krause — avoided the problems rather than look them in the face.
At a time when Artest desperately needed some tough love, he was allowed to veer out of control. Floyd made half-hearted attempts to get through to him — one time Artest was benched after he wore a headband against team rules in support of a teammate — but the coach never had the respect of his players or support from above to lay down the hammer.
"There are certain things I did in Chicago that should have been handled," Artest said. "When you're under the microscope, that's when a lot of things tend to get publicized a little bit more. I was doing a lot of things in Chicago the same way I was doing here."
Then again, from Toni Kukoc to Eddy Curry, that was always the way it was with Krause and his pet draft picks, wasn't it? If you were a Krause guy, you got kid-glove treatment, pure and simple. Now you know why Curry and Tyson Chandler are still so Bounty-soft three years after they became lottery picks.
So it should have come as no surprise that Artest was still up to no good after he was traded to the Pacers two years ago. Last season Artest was suspended three games without pay by the league and fined $35,000 after he heaved a television monitor and smashed a camera after a defeat in New York. (Wouldn't you love to see somebody on the current Bulls team get hacked off like that after a loss? Other than Skiles, I mean?). In Miami only days later, Artest confronted Heat head coach Pat Riley and flashed an obscene gesture toward the crowd. He was suspended by the league four games without pay as a result.
After another loss at Washington last February, Artest smashed a framed picture of himself. Finally, with the blessing of team management, then-Pacers head coach Isiah Thomas did what should have been done years earlier. Artest was ordered to sit out one game, which marked the first time in his career he had been disciplined by his team. Artest also was ordered to seek anger management counseling and called on the carpet by the league office.
The far more mature Artest who has showed up this season isn't the same guy who was suspended for 12 games a season ago. More like the Artest Formerly Known as Ron. Here it is four months into the season and he has all of three technical fouls. And get this: The next flagrant foul Artest commits will be his first of the season.
Otherwise, he has been pretty much the same havoc-wreaker. [size=18:8c7f72606a]When Artest is in the lineup, opposing small forwards average only 10.2 points per game, the lowest total for any non-center in the league. When you consider that Artest averages 17.9 points and 38.1 minutes, he's worth nearly 10 points per game.[/size]
Still, not everyone is convinced. Critics contend that Artest will forever be one step away from the deep end, but he sounds like a man who has been there and is done with that. "I don't want to get suspended anymore," he said. "Everything I did got worse. The suspensions were more games. I don't want it to happen."
Say, does the NBA do mulligans?