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Artest takes 500 shots; cast on non-shooting hand

INDIANAPOLIS -- Wearing a cast on his non-shooting hand, Ron Artest took nearly 500 shots as he returned to practice with the
Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

Left thumb surgery will likely keep Artest out of most of the
Pacers' remaining 26 regular season games, but the forward was
cleared to take part in workouts.

Artest and team officials have refused to set a timetable for
his return from surgery to repair torn ligaments. Artest's surgeon
told him to wait 72 hours after his Thursday surgery before
practicing again.

Al Harrington will continue to start in Artest's place and
Jonathan Bender and Austin Croshere have seen their minutes
increase. All three have played well in the first two games without
their All Star co-captain and best defender.

"In the absence of a guy like Ron Artest, we're going to need
other people to step up," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Al
Harrington gave us a strong game against Utah and then having
Croshere and Bender step up like they did, really at both ends of
the floor was critical."

If that success continues, Artest said he'd be willing to come
off the bench when he returns.

"Whatever it takes," he said. "If the team is rolling along,
I'll do whatever it takes to get victories."