As Las Vegas summer league came to a close in mid-July, Kings players gathered their belongings after a finale win over the Clippers and headed for the exits.
Among the last to leave was Daniel Artest, the younger brother of Ron Artest and a Kings summer league participant. The reason for his delay? He had been spotted by New York Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas, a longtime family friend and just the person whose ear Daniel wanted to bend.
They half-hugged and chatted for a moment when Daniel finally headed for the locker room.
"You campaigning to get Ron to New York," this reporter asked.
"You know it," Daniel said with a smile.
So long as the Knicks need help and Artest remains so far from his hometown team in the Big Apple, the chatter will continue about a possible homecoming. Nearly three weeks had passed since the last resurfacing of trade rumors until Friday, when ESPN writer Ric Bucher said during an on-line chat that he'd heard of a Kings-Knicks deal currently in the works.
But numerous sources said there's nothing doing at present, and the overall sense is that the Kings have never been close to what - in their estimation - would be giving Artest away. Jared Jeffries, for example, was a "centerpiece" of a proposal New York came the Kings' way with earlier in the summer, clearly meaning Thomas missed the memo stating that Kings exec Geoff Petrie is not as desperate to move Artest as once believed. And with the David Lee-types reportedly not available, the lone player of intrigue from the Kings' standpoint appears to be third-year point guard Nate Robinson. Otherwise, it's a blanket request gone unanswered for draft picks and expiring contracts as part of the Kings' rebuilding objective.
As the summer days have passed, Petrie appears to have bunkered down in his position, growing more and more stubborn and determined to improve the offers for Artest or point guard Mike Bibby. As Petrie knows, the desperation will eventually come - though not from him. Teams looking for that difference-maker to push them over the top next season will likely be more cooperative as the February trade deadline approaches. As leverage goes, the Kings are enjoying the luxury of operating under a long-term plan.
- Sam Amick