(Editor's Note: We asked several ESPN experts their views on the Pacers and Kings swapping Ron Artest and Peja Stojakovic. A sampling):
A playoff Ron for Kings? Well ...
How did the Pacers do in the deal?
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: I thought they came out great. Corey Maggette would've been better had he been healthy and Lamar Odom would've been perfect had his contract been much smaller, but considering that many folks were talking about them landing guys like Devean George or Michael Olowokandi -- this is great. But will they be able to re-sign Peja?
John Carroll, Scouts Inc.: Peja's numbers are down and his injuries up. But if he can regain anywhere near his All-Star status he will be a big plus.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN Insider: The Pacers stuck to their guns and waited for an offer that met the specifications of what they were looking for, so they're to be commended for getting as talented a player as they did. Peja is still a legitimate 20-point scorer, and those aren't easy to acquire.
Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine: Pacers did fairly well. The best thing for them is they get to see how Peja fits in for the rest of this season. If he doesn't come out of his years-long slumber in their offense, they can get rid of him in a sign-and-trade. If he returns to All-Star form playing off Jermaine O'Neal, they can re-sign him after the season.
Ric Bucher, ESPN The Magazine: Under the circumstances -- get someone now or risk the unending ire of your team and coaches -- they did OK. Peja will help them and his pending free agency will allow them to overhaul their team this summer.
John Hollinger, ESPN Insider: About as well as they could have given the circumstances. They kept holding out for something better, and something better never came.
Ken Shouler, ESPN.com NBA historian: It's addition by subtraction since they rid themselves of a player who was destined to be a perennial discontent in Indianapolis. They also get an excellent three-point shooter, too, which they needed to supplement Austin Croshere and Stephen Jackson.
How about the Kings?
Sheridan: They got the best player, but they'll get the most headaches, too. But being in last place as they are, with no hope that things were about to turn better anytime soon, they made the type of move that can bring back the level of intensity that's been so absent this season.
Ford: They clearly won in the talent department. I think people are really underrating Artest's talent because of his other issues. However, given the fact that Artest has already had a misstep in Sacramento coming out of the gate, I wonder how this is all going to go. I think offensively it's a great situation for him. But he'd have been better off playing for a guy like Phil Jackson.
Broussard: Kings did great on paper. Artest, Abdur-Rahim, Wells, Bibby and Miller with K Thomas off the pine is a nice lineup. They have gone from a soft, finesse team to a hard-nosed group that can play legit playoff basketball.
Bucher: Slam dunk, as far talent. Artest will go off the rails at some point, but the Kings were no longer on the NBA map. Now they are again.
How do you see the Pacers' season playing out?
Tim Legler, ESPN Insider: I expect the Pacers to pass Milwaukee and potentially catch Cleveland for the fourth seed. They should win a round before getting taken apart by the Pistons in the second round.
Ford: I think they'll still end up as a fourth seed in the East and have a tough second round showdown with the Pistons. But I seriously doubt they'll move on from there.
Broussard: Pacers improved, but not to the point where they are legitimate contenders. They're no longer in the caliber of Motown and South Beach. They are now like the rest of the playoff also-rans in the East. They'll finish fifth in the East and meet fourth-seeded Cleveland in the playoffs, where LeBron, Hughes and Ilgauskas will top O'Neal, Peja and Jackson.
Bucher: They will make the playoffs and they might reach the second round. But their emotional leader and best player was Artest. They haven't replaced that.
Shouler: In a largely unimpressive Eastern Conference they are still a playoff team. I like the potential chemistry between Pacers president Larry Bird and Stojakovic. Still, they are not nearly good enough to compete with Detroit or Miami.
Sheridan: They're not as good of a team as they were on Day 1 of the season, and they never will be. But they're still a playoff team with more than enough experience and coaching to beat anyone in the conference except Detroit.
Carroll: With Jackson and Peja they do not have the ability or toughness to stop the East's perimeter players. Rick Carlisle and his staff will get this team into the playoffs but in the end the Pacers do not have the pieces or the mental toughness to go deep in the playoffs.
And the Kings?
Sheridan: As long as Artest behaves, this should put them squarely in the playoff mix. Artest's offensive repertoire is much greater than Stojakovic's, and his low-post abilities should open up the outside a little more for the Kings' shooters.
Broussard: Kings are still banged up and in such a hole that I think the playoffs are out of reach. They will be improved and enter next season with high hopes.
Ford: I think they eke their way into the playoffs. Artest will make them better right away, but they've dug too big of a hole to get completely out this season. Next season, if things go well this year, will be the year to watch the Kings.
Bucher: They could creep back to .500. They still have no bench and they still aren't a playoff team.
Legler: I think they will come up short in their playoff quest. They still lack enough defensive-minded players to win consistently. The best thing for this team in the long term might be to get in the lottery to give this team some depth and athleticism.
Hollinger: They could make a late playoff run if the chemistry comes around quickly. But Peja's real impact will be felt next year.
Carroll: One player (Artest) is not going to make Sacramento a good defensive team. In fact Artest's defensive abilities will go somewhat wasted if he is not in a good team defensive scheme.
Do you expect Artest to turn his career around?
Shouler: Yes. He caused him own problems last year and continued to cause them this year. But I believe, until I see otherwise, that he's capable of self-rehabilitation. He's blown one chance -- not more than one -- as many pro athletes have.
Legler: If the Kings can turn their season around and have success as a result of Artest's arrival, he will be fine. If they struggle, it is not a matter of if he will implode, it is a matter of when.
Ford: Are you kidding? How can anyone predict anything about Ronnie other than unpredicatability.
Broussard: I don't expect Artest to turn his career around. I think he'll play great for the rest of the year, but there will probably be more bizarre behavior in the future. Nothing to the extent of the brawl, but he'll still be a problem child.
Hollinger: Sort of. I expect him to behave less erratically for a while, and then do something in a year or two that reminds us why Indiana traded him.
Sheridan: Too soon to tell at this point, especially with someone so capable of going off the deep end at any given moment. I love watching him play, and to me he'll remain one of the top three most compelling NBA players to watch.
Bucher: He'll turn it around and around and around. This is one circus that will never end.
Hawks forward Josh Smith gets up in LeBron James' face, but to no avail. James dropped in 38 as the Cavs beat the Hawks, 106-97.
Bill Russell told me that when he was coaching he spent an entire half of one practice running a single end-of-game situation, over and over, to make sure his team could run the play and all of its options in five seconds. You can bet that during the next close game, his team got it done.
One of the most humorous parts of every year is determining who on your team can throw a home run pass. This comes into play if you are at the end of a quarter and you are out of timeouts or or don't want to use one.
On Tuesday, the Bucks were 21-19, half a game ahead of the Pacers. That might give you the impression the two teams are roughly of the same quality, perhaps even that Milwaukee is better.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth, as the Pacers amply showed in a 112-88 demolition of Milwaukee during the teams' rematch two weeks ago. Indiana, despite standing just a game over .500 at the midway point of the year, is one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. And Milwaukee, despite seemingly heading toward a playoff season, is actually no better than many clubs who appear destined for the lottery.
The Pistons won again, topping the Bucks 106-102, and are now on pace for 72 wins.
Detroit Now 35-5
This is what San Antonio can do to an opposing coach. Hornets coach Byron Scott can't bear to watch as his slow-starting team fell, 84-68.
The Hornets' first quarter: The Ford Center standing-room only crowd of 19,289 was taken out of the game early. The Hornets made only 3 of 17 shots in their lowest-scoring opening period of the season. So the Spurs never felt the heat, and cruised in OK City.
Quote of the Day
"We don't care about the numbers. We just want to add them up at the end of the season and come up with home-court advantage."
-- Pistons center Ben Wallace, whose 35-5 team is off to the fourth-best 40-game start in NBA history.
-- Andrew Ayres
In fact, it's a pretty astounding deal if you look at it from the Sacramento side. If Artest acts like an idiot and alienates everyone, the team will have to rebuild -- but since the Kings were 17-23 without much young talent in the pipeline, they would have had to do that anyway. By adding Artest, Sacramento effectively gives itself a 30-month window to try to win something with a Bibby/Artest/Abdur-Rahim/Miller core. Given the reasonable nature of Artest's contract, this is about as risk-free as a risk can get. Even if it fails, the Kings haven't lost any ground.
That's why when it comes down to it, Sacramento got the better end of this deal. The Western team essentially waited out the Pacers to get a star-caliber talent for a player they probably were going to lose anyway. This deal involves calculated risks by both sides, and the range of possible outcomes is all over the map. But in terms of probability, you have to like the odds better from Sacramento's end than from Indiana's.
Mike Bibby scored 35 points in Sacramento's victory at New York, after his 44-point effort in Philadelphia the previous night. The last Kings player to score as many as 79 points during games played on consecutive days was Nate Archibald, for Kansas City-Omaha (81 points, March 19-20, 1973; 37 points vs. Portland and 44 points vs. Buffalo).
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