SALT LAKE CITY - They're talking about the Kings again, and not in the way that makes the Maloofs want to wave that purple flag with pride.
Ron Artest's outlandish act in the Kings' loss isn't a good thing for this team in any way, even if point guard Mike Bibby said afterward that "he was fighting for all of us." I'd like to think I've learned not to overreact to the way Artest is - "Ron being Ron," as you hear so often - but this was impossible to ignore and enough to leave the locals searching for all the old adjectives Artest has tried so hard to get away from.
"Crazy" (courtesy of Utah point guard Deron Williams - as quoted here)
"Whacko" (a headline in the Deseret Morning News).
"Meltdown" (Salt Lake Tribune game story).
And I'm not even going to touch on some of the adjectives the hecklers had for him.
In my report, there just wasn't enough room to touch on everything Artest did on the floor - including the fact he had 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting and eight rebounds. He also ripped a ball from a fan sitting in the front row at EnergySolutions Arena as he went to inbound the ball. He never made contact with the fan but grabbed the ball with a flying-elbow motion that made everyone watching nervous. He pounded his chest so incessantly that any NFL officials watching on televisions went reaching for their whistles for an unsportsmanlike call. He yelled in harmless fashion at the the crowd, with some of his actual words of choice as pointless as "Basketball!" The local media thought Artest pushed the limits with coach Jerry Sloan, the old-schooler who apparently was pounding his own chest during a timeout as a way of asking the officiating crew if it planned to stop the Hulk gesture. Sloan, like everyone else in attendance, soon learned that the only way to stop Ron on this night was by kicking him out of town early. To look at Artest's last hurrah before he was ejected and his exit from the arena while, ironically, giving high-fives to Jazz fans, enjoy this pic.
A few tidbits that didn't make print...
* Bibby made a trip to the trainer's room at some point, apparently to have his right pinkie finger checked. He had it in ice after the game, but is believed to be fine.
* Kings coach Reggie Theus wasn’t the only one forced to adjust to Artest’s uncertainty about playing.
Forward Kenny Thomas was placed on the inactive list before Friday's game, but not before, according to Thomas, he was told by trainer Pete Youngman that he was still active. Then he was told he was inactive, again told he was active before getting the official news. Because the final word came so late, Thomas said he didn’t bring league-approved attire to the arena and couldn’t sit on the team’s bench. He did make an appearance in the media room before the game, though, dining on pasta and chicken in his game warm-ups.
- Sam Amick