Peeved Pacers will try to move disgruntled star
|“||I'm not going to answer any more questions about Ron Artest. Ron doesn't want to be here, so Ron doesn't matter anymore. ”|
|— Jermaine O'Neal|
Artest, suspended most of last season for his role in one of the worst brawls in American sports, said over the weekend that he wants out, his past haunts him in Indianapolis and the team would be better off without him.
Team president and chief executive Donnie Walsh said Monday he didn't like Artest taking the issue to the media first, but he would try to work out a trade.
After the NBA suspended him for triggering a brawl with fans in Detroit, Artest missed 73 games and the playoffs.
Pacers leader scorer Jermaine O'Neal said his primary concern is playing Boston on Wednesday.
Artest remains on the roster but is inactive with pay for the rest of the week. By then, Walsh expects to have a better idea what he can get in exchange for his star.
Artest was a key component to a team that was expected to challenge for the Eastern Conference crown. He leads the league in steals and is the Pacers' second-leading scorer at 19.4 points per game. He became an All-Star and was once the defensive player of the year in his five years with the Pacers. But he's best remembered for the brawl, and he hasn't been able to escape the reminders.
"He's always living down his past in this franchise, and so are we," Walsh said. "So I do think it's a time to kind of break apart and see if he can get a new start somewhere else. I think it's very important for us to put our past behind us and to stop these distractions so that what I think is a fine basketball team can go on."
He added Artest's desire to move on wasn't the only factor involved.
"This is kind of the last straw of a lot of issues," Walsh said.
Stephen Jackson still calls Artest a friend and said the team will miss his play.
"Ron's an All-Star," Jackson said. "It's definitely going to hurt us not to have him here, but we've got games to play. We can't dwell on who's not here, who's here."
In an interview with The Indianapolis Star published Sunday, Artest said, "I still think my past haunts me here. I think somewhere else I'm starting fresh. I'm coming in with baggage, but people already know about it and how I'm going to be."
Artest told the Star he wouldn't mind playing for New York or Cleveland. He's from Long Island City, N.Y., and former Pacers assistant Mike Brown is Cleveland's head coach.
"If I go to the West Coast, I would come back to New York after my contract is up," Artest told the Star. "I would go to Cleveland. I wouldn't mind coming off the bench behind LeBron James. There's a lot of players I wouldn't mind coming off the bench behind."
James appreciated Artest's interest. Artest shut him down in Indiana's 98-76 win on Thanksgiving Day.
"You've got to be flattered because he knows we're an up and coming team," James said. "Any team in this league could use a guy like Ron Artest."
Jackson said the Pacers didn't foresee Artest's desire to leave.
"I think it shocked us all," Jackson said. "Ron's his own man. You really can't tell what's going through his mind ... I'll see him down the line, I'll still give him a hug and still tell him he's my boy."
Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said the Pacers will recover, in part because they got used to playing without him last season.
"You're never going to be as good a team in terms of manpower without a guy like Ron Artest," he said, "but the reality right now is we don't have him. We've been through situations where we had to adjust before and we'll do it again."
O'Neal said he expects the Pacers to remain among the league's elite. The Pacers (12-7) have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
"You're putting too much emphasis on this situation," O'Neal told reporters. "Our team is not going to falter. We're not going to fall into a lottery team. We're going to keep winning."
Jasikevicius, a 29-year-old rookie guard from Lithuania, has averaged 9.4 points and 2.9 assists. He is among the league's leaders in free-throw percentage and shoots 48 percent from 3-point range.
Carlisle said Granger, the 17th pick in the draft, will be expected to grow up quickly. His 15 minutes per game will increase.
"Right now, he's a guy who's going to have to step to the forefront," Carlisle said. "It'll be an opportunity for him, and we're counting on him to come through for us."
Artest has missed the last two games with a sore right wrist. The Pacers defeated Washington 111-87 and Memphis 80-66 last week without him.
Walsh said the fact that Artest went public before talking to management might scare some teams off.
"I think Ronnie is a guy who acts first and thinks later," Walsh said. "If he were to do it over again, he might do it differently."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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