- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The much-discussed trade that would send wayward forward Ron Artest from Indiana to Los Angeles for Clippers swingman Corey Maggette, which moved suddenly toward completion this week after initial resistance from L.A., has fizzled.
NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that the Pacers have abandoned their interest in Maggette because of concerns with his troublesome left foot.
The Clippers, sources said, will have to wait up to a month for the removal of Maggette's cast just to determine if the 26-year-old can be reactivated this season -- or if an ongoing ligament problem will require season-ending surgery that places a screw in Maggette's foot. Indiana, as a result, has elected not to pursue the deal, even though Maggette -- a rugged scorer known for getting to the free-throw line -- had been near the top of its wish list since the Pacers decided last month that they would honor Artest's public request to be traded.
ESPN.com reported Wednesday that the Golden State Warriors, along with the Clippers, were the frontrunners in the Artest sweepstakes, which will soon stretch into a sixth week. The latest Maggette development theoretically enhances Golden State's chances, but the Pacers covet power forward Ike Diogu and the Warriors consider the bruising rookie an untouchable.
The Clippers initially resisted Indiana's insistence on Maggette but relented after a 14-5 start faded into a prolonged slump. L.A. and Golden State emerged as strong Artest contenders with Indiana president Larry Bird preferring to make a trade with one team as opposed to a multi-team deal.
The Warriors can build a trade package around another power forward -- Troy Murphy -- if Diogu remains off limits, but Indiana's luxury-tax concerns and the $51 million over five years left on Murphy's contract make it a questionable fit. Warriors swingmen Mike Dunleavy and Mickael Pietrus have also been mentioned as possibilities.
The Pacers have six weeks left before the Feb. 23 trading deadline to find a deal they like. Artest, who has played in just 23 regular-season games since winning the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award for the 2003-04 season, was placed on Indiana's inactive list (with pay) after telling The Indianapolis Star on Dec. 10 that he wants a trade.
After telling the newspaper that he wanted a fresh start away from the restrictions of coach Rick Carlisle's system and the memories of last season's 73-game suspension, Artest later withdrew the trade request. The Pacers, though, have maintained from the start that they would not consider a reconciliation and plan to keep Artest inactive until they can move him.
Asked if Pacers players were open to giving Artest another chance, star center Jermaine O'Neal told ESPN.com earlier this month: "I like Ron as a person. I care about him as a person. I don't think there's any bad feelings between us, but he understands my position. I went to bat for him [last season] just like I'm going to bat for this team now. We took a vote and every player said they prefer to move on. I've got to back the team and that's something I told him. It's not just me. That's a bridge you cannot cross, when you start talking about playing with other players and playing for other teams."
After practice Thursday, when asked about the possibility of acquiring Maggette, O'Neal said: "I really don't want to comment about it. He's hurting and is going to have about six more weeks off. I would prefer to have somebody who could play right away, but I don't run the team. I just play the game and know that [Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh] and those guys will make a decision over what's best for the team.''
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
6hChris Broussard and Brian Windhorst