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LOS ANGELES -- Quietly and carefully, Ron Artest's transformation from scourge to leader has taken another step forward. His teammates and coaches with the Indiana Pacers have made him a team captain.
The decision, reached mutually by fellow captains Reggie Miller and Jermaine O'Neal and coach Rick Carlisle, was announced to Artest and his teammates in a players-only meeting last month. It was not revealed outside the locker room walls, however, until Thursday, three days before Artest will make his first appearance at the NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles.
Artest gained notoriety last season when he was suspended for 12 games and accumulated a league-high eight flagrant foul points. He has provided a different story line this season, with no suspensions, no flagrants and just three technical fouls -- one of which the NBA admitted was a mistake.
Artest's season hasn't been entirely smooth. He has voiced complaints about the team's offense, was benched for the second half of a game against New Jersey on Dec. 27 for what Carlisle called "conduct detrimental to winning," and was late for a game-day practice session two days later.
In the bigger picture, however, he has given consistent effort, played through injuries and been a calming influence when teammates become emotional during games.
"You don't become a captain unless you earn it," Carlisle said. "He's earned the respect of the key people. But Ron realizes that when you carry the label of team captain, your conduct is held at a higher level of expectation. He's lived up to that."
O'Neal, speaking by telephone Thursday from New York, where he was to make an appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" later in the evening, said he believes the move will both reward and motivate Artest.
"We thought it would give more responsibility to him on and off the court," O'Neal said. "Being a captain is huge. You have to be on time and you have to play a certain way and have a certain demeanor. It's a good situation for him and our team and it's well-deserved.
"You look at Ron's past, how many people thought he would be in this position this year? Nobody. It's all about winning this year."
Artest was traveling to Los Angeles on Thursday and unavailable for comment.
Um didnt Jermaine mention it in an interview after a game on TNT or something. This is not new news. UB how is it that you of all people didnt know about this? I am certain that we talked about it.
Or maybe I am going crazy.
I don't remember it.
Trace, that's an interesting perspective. My initial reaction was that I wouldn't have done this until after this season was complete and he continues to prove he's earned it.
Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
And life itself, rushing over me
Life itself, the wind in black elms,
Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you
Good move IMO.... The team has been helping Ronnie feel more involved and more part of the family... on and off the court this year... rather than the outsider he seemed to be last year. This is an appropriate reward for his obvious maturity and development and will serve to re-instill his importance and accountability to the team.
manipulative?....maybe...but I think the intention is with Rons and the teams best interest in mind... everyone around the organization and team seems to genuinely love the guy.