Lesson learned? Artest vows to play 'out of control'
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Anyone expecting a kinder, gentler Ron Artest on the court this season is likely to come away disappointed.
"I'm going to continue playing hard and out of control, like a wild animal that needs to be caged in," Artest said Tuesday night before the Indiana Pacers faced the New Jersey Nets in the preseason opener for both teams. "I'll let the referees handle it."
|“||I'm going to continue playing hard and out of control, like a wild animal that needs to be caged in. I'll let the referees handle it. ”|
|— Ron Artest|
Artest had eight points, three rebounds and three fouls in 12 minutes in the Nets' 105-103 victory.
Artest was greeted by a smattering of boos from the small crowd at Continental Airlines Arena, and his first points, on an 18-foot jumper a few minutes into the game brought the same response.
The game was Artest's first NBA action since a melee near the end of a game against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace at Auburn Hills last Nov. 19 led to one of the worst brawls in American sports history.
For his part in the altercation, Artest was given a 73-game suspension by the NBA and teammates Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Jackson and Anthony Johnson were given shorter suspensions. Those four and Indiana's David Harrison were sentenced this fall in Michigan to a year's probation plus community service.
Television replays again and again showed Artest running into the stands and attacking a Pistons fan after he was hit with a cup of beer. When asked Tuesday if he could envision a similar incident occurring again, Artest was guardedly contrite.
"I don't think anybody's going to throw anything at me, and I don't see me reacting how I reacted," he said.
A tough defender who was the NBA's defensive player of the year in 2004 but also developed a reputation as a loose cannon, Artest played in the NBA's summer league and said he gained about 10 pounds and is up to 260.
"I wish I was 280," he said Tuesday.
Faced with a phalanx of reporters in the Pacers' locker room before the game, Artest answered questions patiently and seemed resigned to facing similar treatment as he goes around the league.
"It's cool," he said. "Things happen in life and you move on. That's the way you have to go about it. It'll be fun playing. Playing with your teammates, playing against the other All-Stars, that's going to be fun. I'm ready to go."