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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Artest owes no apologies

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The smile across his face was as big as the three-point shot he knocked down late in game seven of the NBA Finals to send the Celtics packing back to Boston. When he got his chance to express himself on national television, he certainly took advantage of the opportunity.

Controversial, enigmatic, and often totally misunderstood, Ron Artest can now also be called an NBA champion. While his references to his music project and undying gratitude to his psychiatrist in the post game interviews may have surprised some, it was clearly his apology to the Indiana Pacers that left me wondering why it was extended at the high point of his basketball career.

The Pacers still blame Artest for derailing the 2004-2005 season for his part in the infamous brawl at Auburn Hills, Mich., in November of 2004. During a contest against the Detroit Pistons, Artest ran into the stands and began pummeling a fan that had thrown a beer on him. When the dust settled it was arguably the most disruptive event ever associated with an NBA game. NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended Artest for the remaining 73 games that season and extracted $7 million from his pocket.

While the Pacers had no real chance of defeating the Pistons or eventual league champion San Antonio that year in the playoffs, they still looked at Artest as the reason they did not advance deep into the playoffs and he continued to wear that collar into the following season. When he requested a trade shortly into the regular season, the Pacer brass gave up and facilitated a trade with Sacramento.

But the resentment and hostility for this man has yet to truly evaporate and in some circles never will. So, I wonder how people in the Pacers’ organization truly felt when he spoke candidly at a press conference after game seven about his apologetic mindset pertaining to his trade request in 2005?

The fact that he took the time to address his feelings regarding his time in Indiana is indeed viewed by many as a breakthrough of sorts, considering his history with the situation.

But what cannot be ignored is a man who paid a significant financial penalty and simply requested a trade would still today be considered evil and blamed by many for virtually destroying the beloved Blue and Gold. Nonsense, I say.

This was a somewhat better than average team, at best, when the incident occurred and while it certainly altered the outcome of that season, it is preposterous to blame any subsequent poor performances the following season solely on it. Players are constantly requesting trades in the NBA. So why did this situation send shock waves through the Pacers, who were headed up by Donnie Walsh at the time?

Did the Pacers really think their alleged loyalty to Artest was something any other club would not have shown if saddled with a talented, yet unpredictable player who just happened to have a guaranteed contract? I contend that the money he lost from the suspension was more than enough penance for his transgressions.

While Artest’s apology seemed sincere and will perhaps begin the total healing process for many in the Pacer organization who loathe him, it is something I feel was not even close to being necessary. He has apologized repeatedly for his role in the incident. He did not bail out on the Pacers by requesting a trade any more than they did when they attempted to trade him over the summer prior to his last season here. Have you forgotten that Pacer fans?

Both parties have the right to explore options.

I am happy that Artest has moved on and now has a championship ring, and while he is entitled to his feelings, I do not feel an apology to the Pacers or the city of Indianapolis should be one of them.

Danny Bridges, who could not be happier for Ron Artest and wishes him continued success in the future, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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