(Editor's note: Originally published January 25, before the Artest-Stojakovic trade.)
SPECIAL MIDWEEK EDITION Test Ron should scare off Kings
The Kings were far luckier than that Tuesday.
They got a one-day free preview of Life With Ron-Ron without actually trading for him.
If they're smart, it should be sufficient to convince the Kings not to go through with this deal, even if Artest pulls one of his trademark 180s and begs to be Sacto-bound on Wednesday.
Yes: Peja Stojakovic will be a free agent in July and the Kings, with roughly zero shot at keeping him after Tuesday's events, have to make sure they get something for Peja before the Feb. 23 trading deadline.
And yes: It's difficult to imagine how Stojakovic could play another game for the Kings after they told him he was headed to Indy, followed by Peja telling ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan in Philadelphia that he feels "disrespected" by the whole episode.
But trust us: Smoothing all that out would be a minor undertaking compared to the Kings' apparent belief that they can make Artest a real cornerstone of their plans to rebuild.
Geoff Petrie, if he's still Geoff Petrie, should be able to see that better than ever.
The Kings traded Chris Webber almost a year ago and decided to start over because A) they didn't think Webber would willingly scale back his game to be a second or third option behind Stojakovic and Mike Bibby and B) they didn't think his surgically repaired knee was sturdy enough to keep propping up the franchise.
It should nonetheless be pretty clear after the one-day free preview that Artest is no more dependable than Webber's knee.
Try (far) less dependable.
Artest is saying now that he simply wants a chance to meet with any prospective new team before a trade goes through, but surely you don't believe that an Artest about-face would hold any significance. Can you believe anything he says anymore? He changes his story daily, sometimes twice on the same day.
You're also dreaming if you think that all he needs some face-to-face love from the Maloof Bros. to buy into Sacto as an Artest kind of town. I'm a fan of the Maloofs, and it's hard not to be, but it's a lot harder to imagine an organization and city more nurturing/forgiving/enabling than the Pacers and Indianapolis have been. Artest received multiple second chances in Indy, and none of them got him any closer to reliable.
Artest might respond to the Lakers' Phil Jackson.
He might click with a fellow eccentric like George Karl in Denver.
He might be willing to be a good teammate (for a while) alongside Minnesota's Kevin Garnett.
Yet even those scenarios are maybes.
The Kings don't have the clear-cut franchise player or the coach with a hammer or the big-city allure to keep Artest committed to the team concept. Golden State really doesn't, either. Unless you've got those prerequisites, dealing for Artest goes beyond mere risk.
I have questions, too, about why Indiana would want this deal, but the overriding reason is that the Pacers have finally reached the point, after more than 40 days of this trade torture, that they simply want to make any deal. That has to be the reason, because parting with what they consider to be a prized asset for a free agent-to-be like Stojakovic -- at a time when Indy is trying to shave payroll to get away from the luxury-tax line -- doesn't sound like a typical Donnie Walsh move. One of the reasons none of Indy's talks with Denver reached completion, remember, is because Nene is also a free agent-to-be and thus probably too expensive for the Pacers to re-sign. If it brings in Stojakovic, Indy risks losing him for nothing at season's end. (Or perhaps the Pacers' secret motivation is assembling a Peja sign-and-trade in the off-season that would most likely signal a total redo of its roster . . . one that potentially includes the relocation of Jermaine O'Neal as well.)
I'm a lot less successful when I try to dig up a reason or two for the Kings to resurrect this thing. Smoothing things over with Peja, at least until they can find another deal, looks more appealing to me.
Trading Peja for Artest would give the Kings two more seasons, until the summer of 2008, with a player of All-Star caliber at a reasonable price: Artest is owed $15 million in 2006-07 and '07-08 before he has the right to declare for free agency. This assumes, of course, that he'd actually be a willing teammate all that time. I wouldn't bet a tenner at The Palms that Artest makes it to the end of this season without incident if he became a King.
With Bonzi Wells as a teammate?
The Kings already know what it's like to trade for a player who has reservations about Sacramento. The trade Petrie swung to get Webber turned out to be one of the greatest heists in NBA history.
But Webber's knee X-ray back then was not nearly as ghastly as Artest's reputation for, uh, unpredictability. That was a fraction of the gamble this would be, especially since the Kings were a nothing-to-lose laughingstock in those days. Their mission now is finding a way back to the elite.
This ain't it.
A wise GM once said that sometimes the best trades are the ones you agree to and then back out of. The Kings will be very, very lucky if Petrie says that to himself when the Pacers call back.
Nah, Cleveland isn't taunting Indiana about the collapse of another Ron Artest deal. It's merely a brief disagreement involving Aleksandar Pavlovic and Jermaine O'Neal in the Cavs' blowout win.
A look at the most active movers, upward and downward, in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings:
Highest Rise: No. 5 Denver Nuggets
Steepest Fall: No. 15 Indiana Pacers
Readers respond to the latest edition of the ESPN.com NBA Power Rankings:
Smith (Dallas): Personally I think your Power Rankings are boring. As a Mavs fan, I know that unless Detroit has a major meltdown, there's no way the Mavs will be No. 1. They might sneak up to No. 2 every once in a while if the Spurs slip up. Otherwise I know they'll be No. 3 on your list, week in and week out. How 'bout moving the Mavs up just to spark some controversy? They're really hot right now!
Mike (Palatine, Ill.): As a lifelong Detroit fan, I'm almost getting bored with the Pistons being on top of the rankings every week. It means I can't complain about a lack of respect any more!
Adam Horowitz (Oakland): They're not the same old Clips, but they're back to getting the same old disrespect. Among the many teams with inferior records ranked above them, I'll give you the Nuggets, since Denver's hot right now. But the Jazz? Utah's lost four out of five, they're below .500, they're five games behind the Clips in the loss column and they got spanked by the Clips since your last rankings came out. How on Earth can you rank them (and the Hornets, Cavs and Lakers) ahead of LA's best team?
Damir (Portland): Portland wins four straight, then holds Dallas to 79 points in regulation after the Mavs scored 110, 114, 103, and 101 points in their previous four games. The best you could do was keep the Blazers in the same spot as last week?
Eric (Brooklyn): Is anyone really surprised that the Kings have fallen on hard times? Don't you believe in the Curse of C-Webb? Ask the Warriors or Wizards. Teams have to be very nice to Chris or they'll pay . . . they'll pay for generations (insert spooky laugh here).
(Ed's note: If Artest is on the Kings' roster by week's end, you probably won't have trouble selling your curse theory.)
Looks like the Pacers could have used Peja ...
Big Ben readies to dunk over KG in Detroit's 107-83 win. The Pistons' dominance has prompted some users to lobby for a drop from No. 1 in Marc Stein's Power Rankings, just to spice things up (See Box 4).
Quote of the Day
Five questions with Suns forward Amare Stoudemire:
A: I talked to Allan Houston a little bit. I talked to Kenyon Martin a little bit. And I've heard about Webber, Kidd and Penny [Hardaway] and all those guys. But my surgery was a little different. The [defect] was a lot smaller than [for] most guys who have the surgery. Plus it was in an area [of the knee] where it doesn't really affect me too much. Plus I had it at a young age. So I've got a lot of time to heal up. A lot of other players had a lot of different things wrong with their knees. This one little injury is the only thing wrong with my knee, and the healing process is going great.
Q: How do you react when you hear that your recovery from knee surgery is ahead of schedule?
A: I won't feed into that. Right now I'm on schedule. The rehab's going great, but I'm taking it one day at a time.
Q: Is it an everyday thing where people are telling you when you should come back?
A: Most of the people that I talk to just want to make sure I'm 100 percent. That's what the coaches are telling me, that's what the trainers are telling me, that's what the doctors are telling me, friends and family [as well]. And that's what I'm going to do.
Q: How will you and the Suns ultimately reach the decision about whether you're ready to play in March or April?
A: It's all up to me. It all boils down to how I feel as far as practice, certain movements, horizontal movements, guarding quicker players -- stuff like that. If I feel good doing all that then I could be back this year.
Q: And if you end up deciding that March or April is too soon to return?
A: That would probably be the hardest thing I ever did, but if that's what it takes for me to heal up, then that's what it's got to be.
Ben (Detroit): I'll be a Kobe believer this Sunday when he plays the Pistons. Throw up 60+ on them and I'll be impressed. Meanwhile . . . why has the 70-win pace talk died down? The Pistons are still on pace -- and if not for the Utah Jazz sweep (???) they'd be 35-3!
Marc Stein: It's only died down because a lot of us have been too wrapped up with other chaos. But hopefully you saw that the ESPN.com NBA Power Rankings committee (of one) noted Monday that the Pistons are on the verge of trumping even the Tigers' famed 35-5 start and thus still on a 70 pace. I'm sure we'll all be back on that one soon enough. Fact is, though, that the interminable Artest trade saga and Kobe's numerous detonations have dominated discussion all season. Reader response to everything we do says those are the issues that interest the masses most.
Sunday will be remembered as the best day in the NBA in a long, long time. There was a nationally televised buzzer beater in Minnesota from Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala to cap a 19-point comeback in the afternoon ... and then Seattle's Ray Allen beating Phoenix with a way-out buzzer bomb at the horn of overtime No. 2 in a 152-149 throwback thriller ... and then simply the greatest individual performance ever recorded: Bryant's 81 points in a 122-104 come-from-behind victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Yes. Better than Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point night.
You'll recall, sadly, that there's no footage of Chamberlain rumbling for triple digits in Hershey, Pa., on March 2, 1962. Which makes it tough to commission an in-depth analysis comparing Wilt's feat (scoring 100 of his team's 169 points that day) to Kobe's (81 of 122). But there's really no need. The folks who did see the 100-pointer and the game's historians would be forced to tell you that the entire fourth quarter was a back-and-forth scramble between one team trying desperately to get Wilt the record and another trying to keep him from getting it. Wilt himself is quoted on the Basketball Hall of Fame's Web site as calling that fourth quarter "a farce."
In the forthcoming flood of Kobe replays, you'll see that there's nothing farcical about Bryant hauling the Lakers back from a 71-53 deficit. You'll see a Raps team that kept the game sufficiently close in the final quarter to keep Kobe out there shooting, and nary an intentional foul by the Lakers to get the ball back (as Wilt needed).