'Wus crackin' with Artest in China?

Updated: August 12, 2009, 11:22 PM ET
By Ryan Corazza | Special to ESPN.com

Ron Artest had a busy two weeks in China. He shot a Peak shoe commercial. He gifted a $45,000 watch to a high school boy. He performed a few concerts. He even fit in time to work out.

[+] EnlargeRon Artest
Getty ImagesLakers forward Ron Artest hangs out in Hangzhou, China, on Thursday.

But above all, Artest wanted us to know he was working with a new artist, a woman who goes by the name Shin Shin. According to the Los Angeles Laker in this video he shot of her on the beach, he found Shin Shin singing in a club and just had to work with her. Since discovering the singer, his Twitter stream has been flooded with updates involving her. He even dropped a video re-enacting the infamous "Malice at the Palace" brawl for her outside an amusement park in Hong Kong.

Nothing about this is particularly out of the ordinary for Artest: His Twitter stream does a good job of letting you know where he is and what he's up to. And with the supplemental video, he gives us even more access. But one move he pulled on Thursday was something else: he gave out his phone number -- (832) 260-8192 -- and told you to let him know "wus crackin." For those keeping score at home, 832 is a Houston area code. And it was no fake move either: this video shows Artest actually fielding calls from fans.

Social media has torn down the wall between fan and athlete, but there's still a lack of intimacy on the Web. Someone else could be typing away behind the keyboard or on the phone. Short of actually talking to Ron-Ron in person, the phone call is about as close as you can get. Not even Stephon Marbury can lay claim to such a move.

But, as you can see in the video, there's a lot of Shin Shin talk. And later, Artest's phone experiment forged into cross-promotion: those blowing up his phone with Shin Shin text messages would get a call back. There were stretches of time when she was the only one answering the phone.

All this is what we're coming to expect from some athlete tweeters who also have off-the-field endeavors: a lot of inside information but with branding, promotion and advertising to boot. Call it unprecedented access … with an asterisk.

Elsewhere …

Last week, I briefly mentioned that the Miami Dolphins brass has banned players from Twitter now that training camp is officially under way. Coach Tony Sparano has elaborated on the policy in recent days. His reasoning? He said what a player thinks is just an innocent update may hurt an individual or even team chemistry, so he's eliminating a variable that he believes could lead to a loss down the road. Fair enough. There's an argument to be made that Sparano could just give his players guidelines about how and when they're allowed to use the service, but instead of their being possible gray areas with those rules -- as there always are -- he decided instead to turn it black. It's his team. His rules.

But another censorship thread at Dolphins camp is a little over the top. Not only has the team gone against NFL recommendations and banned reporters from tweeting, blogging and texting from the sidelines (the Dolphins aren't the only team to do this), but they've also instructed fans to refrain from doing that as well, in an effort to not let any sensitive information about the team out.

According to one report, fans aren't really following the guidelines and think they're silly. This is almost nearly impossible to police.

A note to the Dolphins: Once the genie is out of the bottle, there's no putting it back in.

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