Artest regrets how Pacers tenure ended
Despite memories of a tumultuous time, he continues to live in Indianapolis areahttp://www.indystar....9/1088/SPORTS04
By Mark Montieth
In all ways but one, it's like Ron Artest never left the Indiana Pacers.
He's living in his Zionsville home with his wife, children and extended family, with plans to buy more surrounding homes and land and make it his permanent base. His kids are enrolled in various camps and will attend school here in the fall. He's working out at Conseco Fieldhouse and other area facilities and getting together with the Indiana Pacers' former conditioning coach. He's taking his family to Indiana Fever games. He's speaking at local youth organizations, such as he did on Monday at the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center on the city's near Westside.
"Hopefully I'll retire here," he said, sitting at the head of the glass dining room table in his home. "We like it here."
Artest isn't a Pacer, however. And while he is clear in expressing his respect for the Sacramento Kings' organization and his desire to remain with their team, he can't help but agonize a bit over his display of frustration.
"I reacted a little too fast," he said of his trade request in December 2005. "If I hadn't done that, I'd still be a Pacer now."
Artest was reacting to a home loss to Dallas, his irritation with coach Rick Carlisle's offense, a hand injury, a bogus trade rumor published in the Sacramento Bee, and, most of all, the cloud that had followed him since his 72-game suspension for his role in the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills in November 2004.
Already people were speculating about his return to the scene of his life-altering experience at the Palace, still 10 weeks away. That was nagging at his psyche, too.
"I was under a lot of pressure," he said. "I didn't want to go back to Detroit and play in an Indiana jersey. I was under a lot of pressure because that was so crucial in my life. That almost ended my career."
With the clarity of hindsight, he wishes he had stuck it out. He was playing for a title contender, was comfortable in the city and, despite his disagreement with Carlisle's offensive approach, was in a system in which he flourished. He was an All-Star and the Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, when the Pacers won 61 games, and was playing at the highest level of his career in his seven games before the brawl."You know what?" he said. "As frustrated as I was at times playing for Rick . . . I like playing for the Kings, but I wish I was still playing for Rick. Nothing is going to go perfect in anybody's career. Certain guys in the league are mentally tough and always ready. But certain guys like me, because of how I grew up, I act out at times. Then you think about it and say, 'Man, I wish I would have gone about that differently.'
"It's almost like saying you wish you grew up differently. When you grow up like I did, you think that every day, every second is a life-or-death situation, but it's not so. If I could do it again, I would never (have given up on) that team.
"I had no reason to complain. I had a career year under Carlisle. What was I complaining about? When I look back on it, it was just stupid. Your ego takes over you sometimes."
His tumultuous experiences with the Pacers have convinced Artest not to give up his current team, either. The Kings are coming off a losing season and he's facing punishment related to an incident in his home outside of Sacramento on March 5. He hears more trade rumors but isn't looking for another escape route.
"The team I'm on now, I'll stick with it," he said.
Rather than go to court over the misdemeanor charges filed by the prosecutor, he has accepted a judge's order of 100 hours of community service, a 10-day work project and extensive anger management counseling.
He's serving his work project with the Sacramento sanitation department, emptying garbage trucks at the central facility.
"You respect the sanitation worker more," he said. "Oh, my goodness, some of the stuff that comes out in that garbage."
Artest has two years remaining on his contract, but can opt out after this season.
He has backed off his music career, treating it more like a hobby than an offseason profession. He has turned down endorsement opportunities and is granting fewer media interviews.As he goes around the city, most people greet him favorably. Some ask when he's coming back to play for the Pacers.
He doesn't have an answer, but doesn't rule out the possibility if the franchise wanted him.
"My first choice is Sacramento," he said. "But I wouldn't have a problem coming back to Indiana."
Edited by edc, 21 June 2007 - 10:04 PM.