Stern hopes Artest 'has an All-Star season'
MIAMI -- Count NBA commissioner David Stern among those happy to see Ron Artest playing again.
They met briefly Thursday night before the Indiana Pacers' game in Miami, the second the forward has played in since completing his nearly yearlong suspension stemming from last season's brawl with fans at Detroit.
"I think he's a great player and I hope he has an All-Star season," Stern said. "I wished him well before, visited him a bit. And he's made an already-strong Pacer team even stronger. They feel pretty good about their roster right now."
Artest was greeted by lusty boos from the sold-out Miami crowd, something he knows will be commonplace throughout the season. He insists crowd reaction won't faze him -- but acknowledged he was curious how Stern will be received when he visits Indiana.
"I can't wait until he comes to Indiana," Artest said. "Indiana fans can't wait to see him."
Artest was suspended for the final 73 regular-season games, plus the playoffs, after running into the stands after a fan who he thought tossed a drink cup in his face late in the Pacers' game at Detroit on Nov. 19, 2004.
Yet Artest doesn't sound like he's harboring any resentment toward Stern, who levied a punishment that caused him to miss about $5 million in paychecks.
"He's a cool cat," Artest said before the game. "I think he's from the 'hood."
Countered Stern, when asked if Artest's assessment was accurate: "Neither my wife nor my two sons would agree with that. In fact, they would take strong issue with it."
Artest had 16 points, three rebounds and five assists in a 90-78 win over Orlando on Wednesday, his first real game back since the suspension was levied. He was 4-of-14 from the field and 6-of-9 from the free throw line.
"Ron Artest is one of the best players in this league," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. "And taking 11 months off or whatever wasn't going to change that. ... He's one of the biggest, strongest guys in the league."
Stern also touched on a number of other league issues in his pregame remarks, including:
• Responding to remarks Indiana's Stephen Jackson made during training camp about the league's new dress code, which includes a ban on visible chains, pendants and medallions over attire, Stern insisted that the rules carry no racially motivated undertones.
"Have you been around South Beach long? Most of the people I see with chains are elderly Jewish gentlemen, so I don't know what he's talking about," said Stern, 63.
• He doesn't expect the league to play any regular-season games overseas during the 2006-07 season, but would like to have four teams conduct training camp in Europe next year.
"I would like all of our teams to be ready to step up," Stern said, without revealing which four clubs he has in mind.
• The lease allowing New Orleans to play most of its home games in Oklahoma City this season has an option for 2006-07, and Stern said he's hopeful a decision will be made by early 2006 about whether it will be activated.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press