Five logical deals for the often illogical Ron Artest
Posted: Friday December 16, 2005 6:04PM; Updated: Friday December 16, 2005 6:04PM
For as much as Ron Artest promises a team on the floor, he also offers the promise of an equal amount of heartache off the floor.
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It's a rare thing when a player as talented as Ron Artest goes on the market, as he did this week when the Indiana Pacers declared their intention to trade him.
Pacers president Donnie Walsh told SI.com on Friday that a majority of NBA teams had called to explore trades for Artest and that "most of them were making offers." Though Artest's agent has talked of desire to mend his relationship with Indiana, Walsh said that he was continuing to pursue a trade -- "as of right now," he added, as if to signal that reconciliation was possible.
But it's hard to imagine Artest returning to Indiana for two reasons. First, not only do his teammates feel that he stabbed them in the back by demanding to be traded after many of them had sacrificed portions of their salaries and careers while rallying to Artest's defense last season in the Detroit brawl, but, second, their feelings of betrayal extend all the way up the chain of command to the team's owners. The Simon brothers appealed personally to commissioner David Stern for a reduction of Artest's suspension. After supporting him for the last year in spite of the havoc he created, you can be sure they feel that Artest owed them better than to impulsively demand a trade in the Indianapolis Star.
The other factor is Indiana's $79 million payroll, fourth-highest in the league. Walsh admits that he wants to trim it back, with the result that suitors for Artest may be asked to take on the contracts of Austin Croshere (owed $15.2 million through next season) and/or Anthony Johnson ($8 million over three years).
Artest is a kinder, gentler version of Marvin "Bad News"" Barnes. No small forward playing now is more gifted at both ends of the court, yet his exceptional talent comes with a foreboding of imminent disaster. "What happens if you trade a good young player for Ron," says an Eastern Conference executive whose team has been involved in preliminary negotiations with the Pacers for Artest, "and then in February he decides he's going to become a rap mogul and that he's no longer going to play for you? He's a hard guy to trade for."
Here are five potential trades involving Artest. I'm not saying that these have been considered by the Pacers, but they raise intriguing possibilities:
Artest and Johnson to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum, Devean George and Medvedenko
Most people think that the Pacers would want to replace Artest with Lamar Odom, but two factors could work against Odom: (1) He's a high-maintenance star with a history of off-court issues himself, and (2) he's making $11.5 million this season -- almost $5 million more than Artest -- with three more years to go at $40 million remaining. But do the Pacers really want to take on additional salary by acquiring Odom?
A trade involving Bynum would enable them to escape their long-term commitments to Johnson and Artest ($29 million over four years) in exchange for the expiring contracts of George and Medvedenko, who would provide a combined $8 million in payroll relief when they become free agents this summer. George would help Pacers rookie Danny Granger fill in at small forward for Artest, and Medvedenko would give them another big body for the playoffs, but the key to the trade would be Bynum, the No. 10 pick in the draft who could develop into a useful 7-footer by the time Jermaine O'Neal is 30.