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Bird: 'We're closer than we were'

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers are closer to dealing Ron Artest and getting a player to help their struggling team.

"We're closer than we were," Indiana president of basketball
operations Larry Bird said Tuesday. "To say we're going to do
something today, well, that's not going to happen."
Artest's agent, Mark Stevens, said "a deal is imminent, almost
as soon as possible."

A deal with Sacramento is potentially on the horizon, according to the New York Post, which is reporting that Peja Stojakovic could be dealt for Artest.

Artest was a key component to a team that was expected to
challenge for the Eastern Conference crown. He led the league in
steals and was the Pacers' second-leading scorer at 19.4 points a
game before being deactivated after publicly requesting a trade in
early December.
In five years with the Pacers, Artest was an All-Star once and
was the NBA's defensive player of the year in 2003-04.
Bird said the Pacers had been interested in Corey Maggette of
the Los Angeles Clippers, but there was "no question" that
Maggette's sprained left foot affected the process. Maggette
averaged 21.7 points in 13 games before getting injured in early
December.
The Timberwolves were among many teams that have inquired about
Artest and were thought to be a prime candidate to be involved in a
trade. But talks between Timberwolves vice president Kevin McHale
and Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh have slowed of late.
Jermaine O'Neal, the Pacers' leading scorer, has said some
players might be worried about getting traded along with Artest,
and it might be affecting their play. The Pacers have lost four of
their last five games, including Monday to the Atlanta Hawks, who
have the NBA's worst record.
Bird dismissed that idea, saying there's always a chance a
player can be traded.
"I don't believe that," Bird said. "How can they be affected?
It's the same thing every year."
Bird said his players should not worry because he's trying for a
one-for-one deal. He said the Pacers' recent tailspin has not
pushed him to make a deal more quickly.
"We want to do what's right for this franchise."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.