Artest back in Kings' lineup after serving 7-game suspension
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ron Artest rejoined Sacramento's lineup Wednesday night at Minnesota, ready to resume his never-dull career after serving a seven-game suspension to start the season.
The Kings picked up only two victories during Artest's penalty. They were eager to have him back, though Artest expressed little emotion about his return following the team's morning shootaround at Target Center.
"It's all good. It's just a regular day," said Artest, who turned 28 on Tuesday. "Same old, same old. I've been in the league eight years, so same old."
Less than 4 minutes into the game, the versatile, volatile forward -- looking leaner than before -- found an opening in the Minnesota defense and drove the lane for an easy dunk and his first points of the season. Artest was suspended by the league this summer for pleading no contest to a domestic violence charge that stemmed from a dispute with his wife -- his latest brush with trouble.
He finished with 17 points and six assists in the Kings' 108-103 loss to previously winless Minnesota, and was unavailable for comment afterward. The team said he had a tooth knocked out.
Artest was asked before the game what he expected from himself in his belated debut.
"Same old, same old," he said.
"Same old, same old," he repeated.
Kings coach Reggie Theus was expecting an extreme. He just wasn't sure which one.
"These kind of situations, I think guys either play really good or they struggle," Theus said. "It's usually not an in-between thing. But he's going to play and see what happens."
Wolves coach Randy Wittman was more concerned about seeing improvement and consistency from his young team than how it would adjust to facing Artest, who averaged 18.8 points for Sacramento last season and is one of the NBA's best defensive players.
"If we come out aggressive against him and make him work, that's what we want," Wittman said. "We don't need to do anything different or make anything more out of him coming into this game."
The Kings came closer to getting their full squad back. Point guard Mike Bibby is out for at least another month with a torn ligament in his left thumb, but center Brad Miller was on the floor Wednesday after missing the previous game with a bruised right quadriceps muscle.
Also, reserve center Justin Williams, who has been on a leave of absence from the team, will be back for Thursday's practice in Sacramento. Prosecutors, citing insufficient evidence, declined this week to file charges against him over allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman.
"I'm happy for him, because it could have been a disaster," Theus said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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