Artest: Fame led to frustration, drinking
Excerpts of an interview Artest did with the Sporting News for its Dec. 7 issue were released in advance and included Artest saying: "I used to drink Hennessy ... at halftime. I [kept it] in my locker. I'd just walk to the liquor store and get it."
Artest, who played for the Bulls from 1999 to 2002, was a guest Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 Chicago, and he said he was trying to portray himself as an example of how not to handle pressure.
"The whole point of it was to let people know I was not proud of how I was as a youngster, and how immature I was," Artest said. "I think the guy released the part of the story that was going to sell the newspapers.
"I think when the story comes out, it will show how I was not proud of how I was during my younger days in the NBA. But I think in order to get everybody interested in actually buying the paper, I think they just released all these power points, so to speak."
Artest said Thursday during the interview that the drinking took place "a lot of times before the game. It probably lasted for about a couple weeks, or maybe a month. I can't exactly remember."
Artest didn't elaborate about drinking during halftimes of games.
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"I know before games, sometimes, I would take some sips before games," he said. "Most of the time it would be like when I would drive to the game with one of my drivers, it would be right before the game."
Artest, 30, was drafted as a 19-year-old out of St. John's.
"I was just a young player in the NBA; certain situations I only knew how to handle it one way," he said during the radio interview. "I guess being famous, fame, not being able to handle it at such a young age, led to a lot of frustration and would lead to me making dumb decisions, such as the comment I made the other day.
"It's something I'm not proud of. I know a lot of people in my situation, trying be successful, whether it's education or athletics or even entertainment, that is not able to withstand the pressure that comes with it. That was my whole purpose in trying to get that story out about a month ago."
Artest denied that he was making up the drinking story to create controversy.
"I definitely was not trying to get a rise out of people," he said.
He was asked if drinking affected his performance with the Bulls.
"I did pretty well in Chicago, I think," he said. "I played pretty good defense. But I think I would have been a better player if I were able to make smarter decisions."
Artest didn't answer directly when asked if he's heard from the NBA since the excerpts were revealed. An NBA spokesman said Wednesday the league has no comment and hopes Artest has a successful season.
"I'm not in it to get a rise out of anybody," he said on "The Waddle and Silvy Show." "I didn't do it to be thinking about possible consequences getting in trouble, that wasn't the whole purpose.
"Right now, I want to keep myself separate from the NBA, or keep that separate, it's totally different. It's me trying to reach out to troubled youth. It's a major problem right now."
Artest also addressed the excerpt in which he said he's still ready to fight Detroit Pistons center Ben Wallace. The two were involved in an altercation that spilled into the stands in the Palace of Auburn Hills during the 2004-05 season. Artest, who was with the Indiana Pacers at the time, was suspended 73 games.
"Ben is cool," Artest said. "I admire how he plays defense.
"I don't want to fight Ben Wallace in no street. I don't want to fight Ben Wallace on no basketball court. But after our careers are over, I will fight Ben Wallace in the boxing ring. But not out of hatred. But out of it would be a good boxing match. So don't look forward to me fighting Ben on a basketball court, because that's not going to happen."
In his first season with the Lakers, Artest again is attracting attention for his eccentric behavior and frank admissions -- although Kobe Bryant said it's nothing that'll concern the Lakers.
"What fallout?" Bryant asked. "He ain't doing that [stuff] here. It's got nothing to do with us."
Indeed, Bryant said Artest gets an "A-plus" as a teammate during his first few months with the Lakers, who signed him as a free agent as the only new addition to last season's championship-winning roster. Artest has referred to himself as the captain of the Lakers' defense, and Bryant agrees.
"He takes things off my plate," Bryant said, noting Artest's intensity at practice. "[In previous seasons] I've had to be the offensive captain, the defensive captain. ... He's another person that's as extremely intense as I am in practice, goes at it even more."
Although Lakers coach Phil Jackson hadn't yet spoken to Artest, the 10-time NBA champion coach said he suspects Artest's admissions have been "blown out of context." Although Jackson heard of similar issues when he was a player with the Knicks, he doesn't believe Artest's in-game drinking could have been more than an occasional, minor dalliance.
"I just don't think as a player, you can get away with that type of thing in the NBA," Jackson said. "Somebody is going to see it. There's going to be alcohol on your breath. It's just not going to happen on a day-to-day basis. ... Ron was just talking about the struggles that he's had in his career."
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