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April 22, 2006
Ailene Voisin: Tough talk, tough player

Geez, this was pathetic. The only thing salvaging the evening here in San Antonio -- which included an absolutely horrible basketball game -- was that very little was made about Ron Artest’s prediction. Maybe now we can all get on with the series. For those who might have missed it: Artest envisions himself as the team leader, and accordingly, at times feels almost compelled to thrust out his chest and say something outlandish to seemingly take the pressure off his teammates.

Before the series against the defending world champion San Antonio Spurs, the veteran small forward, who missed the playoffs with the Indiana Pacers last year because of his season-ending suspension, repeatedly proclaimed that the Kings would advance into the second round. And I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I applaud his competitiveness.

What was he supposed to say? That he expected the Spurs to win? Saturday night’s debacle notwithstanding, his intensity is refreshing. He plays hard, and as was evident last night, he plays hurt. After Manu Ginobili tagged him with an inadvertent elbow to the mouth a mere 18 seconds into the game, Artest crumpled to the court, yet played 35 minutes with a lip that became so inflamed that he was unable to speak with reporters afterward -- an almost unheard of occurrence.

One of the most impressive things about Artest, in fact, is his candor. He doesn’t censor his thoughts or his words. People either accept him or they don’t. And given that players and coaches often are inhibited for fear of harming their image, I’ll take candid mortals over carefully-guarded corporate clones any day.



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