Posted: Tuesday December 13, 2005 11:13AM; Updated: Wednesday December 14, 2005 5:50PM
Uh, sorry Jermaine, no. But there are plenty of other questions. Questions about the Pacers -- Who will score? Who will be the stopper? Can this team regain its chemistry? Will Stephen Jackson lose it next? (the guesses here, in order: Sarunas Jasikevicius, no one, yes, just give him a reason)
Likewise, there are plenty of questions about Artest -- will he channel his energy on a new team? Will he join Jerry Rice and Kenny Mayne on Dancing with the Stars? But there are always questions about Artest. This is the man who said he wants to be a pro boxer, who said he owed the Pacers a championship (in some big-name magazine or another), who is beginning to make Dennis Rodman look rational.
Still, it's hard not to believe that some team is going to make out in this deal. Artest has the talent to take a squad deep into the playoffs this season. He's that good, and he'll be that happy -- and inspired -- during the honeymoon period with his new team (unless, of course, he's shipped to Toronto, which would be amusing). Why? Because amid the multiple personalities of Ron Artest is a version that really wants to impress people, and he'll have a whole new set of teammates, coaches and local media to impress. Provided he keeps himself on the court for 60 games-- and that's quite a contingency -- he can change a franchise, at least momentarily. He's the best defensive player in the league and one of the top offensive forwards, the kind of guy a coach can sic on an opposing star in the playoffs and still get points from on the other end of the floor. Those guys are rare.
No doubt Isiah Thomas is taking a run, and it sounds like Sacramento might as well (the world has been dying for Bonzi Wells and Artest together, no doubt). Despite Artest's quote about backing up LeBron, Cleveland GM Danny Ferry is too smart to introduce him to the core he is building on the Cavs -- like a tapeworm, the effects might not show immediately, but eventually it'll eat you up from the inside.
In the meantime, the Pacers will push on with that under-publicized two-game win streak, and wonder why in the world they were so patient with Artest. It seems to be the way the NBA works these days. Be nice and get screwed. When the Nets gave Alonzo Mourning a chance, he repaid them by whining his way out of New Jersey.
At least Indiana should get better value than if they tried to trade Artest last season, during his suspension. And if they don't get a forward back in the deal, they can always do something charitable. Word has it that the family of a certain out-of-work swingman -- one who was, after all, once part of the second-best tandem in the league -- is in bad need of sustenance right about now. Paging Mr. Sprewell: your new bestest bowling buddy is waiting.