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Artest to play with Pacers in summer league

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ron Artest arrived at the Indiana Pacers'
rookie-free agent camp Monday pledging to be a smarter player
focused on helping his team win an NBA title.

The star forward spoke to the local media for the first time
since a Nov. 19 fight in Detroit resulted in a nearly season-long
suspension. That night, Artest went into the stands at The Palace
and attacked a Pistons fan after he was hit with a cup of beer.

Artest said he wants to cut down on technical fouls and remain
in control to help his team. He called his tendency to draw
technicals "playing against your team.

"As you get older, you get a bit more wise," he said.
"Probably next year, you'll see an older guy, an older player.
Like everybody else, as they get older, they mature."

The former All-Star and NBA defensive player of the year was
averaging 24.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in seven games when
his season was cut short.

Artest said it was his decision to join the team for the camp
and for the Minnesota Summer League that starts Friday.

"He's been waiting a long time to get the uniform back on, and
to be a part of the team," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "This
is a beginning. We feel it's significant."

Carlisle said Artest looks ready to play.

"He looks good," Carlisle said. "He's in shape. We know he's
worked hard."

Artest said he knows he'll face a strong effort from opponents
in the summer league.

"I'm sure somebody's going to try to make a name for
themselves," he said. "I'm going to try to make a name."

Artest knows he's being watched.

"I'm a ghetto-type guy," he said. "I'll be ghetto for the
rest of my life. But at the same time, there's a lot of kids who
look up to me. For that, I'll change."

Artest said he was proud of the way the team played in his
absence. The Pacers finished 44-38 and reached the second round of
the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"We were a top-eight team," he said. "We finished in the top
eight after all that happened to us. The Pacers showed a lot of
heart."

He feels he owes the Pacers for what happened against the
Pistons in one of the worst melees in U.S. sports history.

"They all stood by me, and I'm going to do the same for them
this year," he said. "I want to play well for my teammates, and I
want to win a championship.

"It's my job to focus on basketball," he said. "It's my job
to put the team first."

Artest said he thought "everybody hated" him after the Detroit
incident, but was happy that Indiana fans stood by him.

"They just showed a lot of support, all types of support," he
said. "They said, 'Keep your head up.' It's a great feeling."

Artest said he is looking forward to returning to Detroit for
his first game there since the brawl.

"It's going to be a lot of excitement," he said. "Sometimes,
you go to away games and you've got to find a way to get your
energy up. I'm sure my energy will be up."

One visible change in Artest was his jersey number. He donned
number 15 after changing from 91 last season and 23 the season
before that. He had worn number 23 in honor of Michael Jordan, then
91 in honor of former Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman.

Artest wore number 15 in high school and at St. John's.