Artest wants to remain a Pacer
"I should have been a man and spoken with coach [Rick Carlisle] about my differences with him," Artest told the Indianapolis Star. "Yes, I would like to return to the team."
Mark Stevens, Artest's agent, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Artest holds out hope he can remain with the Pacers.
"At this moment, we're not going to put the buggy before the horse," Stevens said. "We're waiting to hear from [Pacers president] Donnie Walsh, the gentleman and scholar that he is, and hope this can be resolved to where there won't have to be a trade."
Teammate Stephen Jackson said Artest called him Friday night, and hopes his teammate will return.
"He wants to play basketball, that's all he wants to do," Jackson said before the Pacers played the New York Knicks. "He wants to play basketball, he wants to win.
"I think he wants to play basketball with us. He loves his teammates, he has no problems with his teammates."
It might be too late. ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan reported Friday that Walsh is "encouraged" by the quality of the offers he has received for Artest, including what he said were at least two proposals involving All-Star caliber players.
Without being specific about any of the 12-15 offers he said he had received, Walsh told ESPN.com he had heard from 20 teams, some of which merely called to ask what Walsh was looking for. Walsh said he was planning to get back to three of those teams to make specific requests.
"I've talked to a lot of teams, discussed myriad types of offers. Some are player for player, some involve first-round draft picks, some involve savings, some involve a combination of those things," Walsh said. "I'm encouraged by some of the things we were offered."
He would not set a timetable for trading Artest, though he did concede: "I'd like to get it behind us, but I don't feel any [time] pressure to do it. I'd like to winnow it down to two or three deals I'd like to do."
Artest triggered a brawl with Detroit Pistons fans in November 2004 and was suspended for 73 games and the playoffs. Walsh said the latest incident was "the last straw of a lot of issues."
Jackson also was suspended for the brawl.
"I almost lost my job for him last year, so that's my friend," Jackson said. "So I respect his decision, whatever he feels, he feels."
Stevens said Walsh told him he is prepared to make Artest inactive with pay for the rest of the season if he can't find a suitable trade.
"I understand the frustration as a general manager, dealing with the past incidents with Ron, and I can understand if he sees fit to do that," Stevens said.
The NBA fined Artest $10,000 Thursday for making public statements detrimental to the NBA.
Artest was a key component on a team 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 a game.
He said he was unhappy playing in coach Rick Carlisle's system. Carlisle said any decision regarding Artest's return would be left up to Walsh and Larry Bird.
"Right now, this is a franchise decision and fortunately for us it's in the hands of Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird, who are two of the best basketball people that there's ever been in this league," Carlisle said. "So they'll decide which is the best way to go.
"We built an entire system around him and Jermaine O'Neal and I'm disappointed because I've been one of his biggest supporters. But this situation has gotten to where it is."
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