<
>

Warriors coach Montgomery mum on Artest rumors

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Coach Mike Montgomery was evasive
Thursday about Golden State's possible interest in acquiring Ron
Artest
from Indiana.

Yet Pacers coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged the Warriors are
apparently one of many teams interested in Artest, who has been on
the inactive list for the last 13 games and isn't traveling with
the club.

"I've heard Golden State mentioned, but I've heard 17 or 18
other teams mentioned. What I can tell you is whoever ends up with
him is going to get a top-10 player who's a real difference maker,
who's a bona fide All-Star and maybe the best two-way player in the
game," Carlisle said before his team played at Golden State on
Thursday night. "Certainly at his position he is. I understand why
there's a lot of interest."

Artest, a sixth-year pro and former NBA defensive player of the
year, said last month he wanted to leave the Pacers and make a
fresh start elsewhere, still haunted by his suspension for last
season's brawl with Detroit Pistons fans that cost him 73
regular-season games and the playoffs.

Pacers team president Larry Bird has said he feels "betrayed"
by Artest and general manager Donnie Walsh would just as soon get a
trade done in a timely manner. Carlisle said he prefers to stay out
of it and focus on his job, noting he is one of Artest's biggest
supporters. Indiana came in having lost five of six.

Names reported as possibilities in a trade if the teams were to
come to a deal are Golden State's Troy Murphy and Mickael Pietrus.

"Is it about Ron? If it's about Ron, I'm not answering,"
Pacers guard Stephen Jackson said.

Montgomery declined to discuss how Artest, Indiana's
second-leading scorer at 19.4 points per game, might fit in with
his team -- which began the season with big hopes of ending a
league-worst 11-year playoff drought.

"Picture me as Sgt. Schultz -- I know nothinnnnngggg,"
Montgomery said sarcastically. "It's all speculation. You guys are
just going to have to do your homework and dig around in the trash
cans a little bit. We've got a good group of guys. They get along.
There's certainly some maturation that has to take place, some
growth in this group for us to get where we want to get. But it's a
good group of guys that seems to enjoy each other."