LOS ANGELES - Ron Artest talked for some 10 minutes after yesterday's practice in Sacramento. And if we at the local newspaper had decided to publish all of his comments, we may as well called it the 'Ron-Ron' section with all the ink it would have taken.
That's what this space is for, though, and it's much-needed since this is starting to look like a Lakers blog with the Kobe presence (four pics, two videos in the last week alone, although I'm sure I made my colleague/Kobe lover Jason Jones a happy man).
I don't think any of Ron's interview needs all that much explaining, as you have all been along for the ride all season and this is merely the latest chapter. The only new element here would be Artest's comments about Grant Napear, the team's TV and radio personality who spent much of the week being very critical of Artest on the air.
On how he looks at the rest of the season...
Artest: "I think right now weíre trying to find what type of players the young players are going to turn into. I think right now is a time where weíve just got to still play hard no matter what. Itís been a tough season. I think weíve got a lot to learn. Unfortunately, weíve got a lot of growing to do. Itís like a new seed being planted. Weíve just got to grow, as an organization, as players, as coaches. Weíve just got to grow together. Itís unfortunate that we couldnít jell at this point in the season like Iíve seen, but itíll be OK.
Itís been tough for me. Iíll tell you that. Itís been real tough. Every game you lose just makes it that much tougher. I guess Iíve grown. When I was in Indiana, right now I wouldíve said I wanted to be traded with all these games weíve lost and not having a shot to go to the playoffs."
On how much it pains him that he likely won't be in the playoffs for the second straight season...
"Sick. Itís a failure. Right now, we still have a chance. Hopefully everybody else loses their games. Weíve just got to keep trying to win our games. We lost to two of the worst teams in the league the last couple of nights, so that didnít help us at all. Thatís been the story a lot this season. At the same time, I think guys really want to win and thatís what makes it harder."
On his absences from the last two games...
"Before the first day, I wasnít even going to shoot, and I just thought itíd be better if I rest my leg and rest my foot. I thought itíd be better if I just let the guys go get the win. I thought weíd be able to win still.
Then yesterday, we were playing against one of the worst teams in the league and I just thought itíd be better if I just rest my foot because weíve got a tough schedule coming up. The games we have coming up, to me, were more important. Weíve got all the teams who are trying to get homecourt advantage (in the playoffs). Itís still an important season for them. Itís still an important season for us."
On whether last season's 5-17 record down stretch is enough to remind this team how bad it could get if they don't keep competing...
"The year before that was pretty strong (when the Kings went 26-12 down the stretch after trading for Artest). A lot of people want to look at last year, and thatís been hard for me to cope with, but I look at the year before that. We were real strong at this point. We were at our strongest point of the season when times got tough.
Itís very tough. Itís very tough, knowing you have the pieces to compete for a championship, itís very tough being in this situation right here. Youíve still got to give the young guys a chance to grow, a chance to turn into really good players, and next year hopefully there wonít be no soul searching. It will be, 'If youíre ready, youíre ready; if youíre not, youíre not.'"
On the skepticism that surrounded his absence from the last two games because of a sore foot...
"Iíve been getting a lot of good feedback. As much things as people are saying, like you hear Grant (Napear) on the radio talking crazy and you hear a lot of other sportscasters talking crazy. As much as thatís been going on, there have been a lot of players who want me to play with them, a lot of organizations (who want him). The Kings have been supportive of me also. Grant said I wouldíve been traded by now, but Iím still here, so the Kings have got some kind of interest in me to keep me here this long. I feel real good about where my careerís at right now. "
On his critics...
"There are a lot of people out there who know my agenda was to make the playoffs. Even when I came back early from my elbow injury, and I put the season before my daughter. So when people say theyíre doubting me, and Iím really hurt, I like those people. Because now you get to see who hates you, who really donít like you. Because I donít want people to love me, and then hate me. I always told people Iíd rather hate than love because hate is more real with love.
Iíd rather get all those people out now, and I want them to stay like that. So when we start winning, donít come on the bandwagon, alright? Donít come say, ĎHey Ron, I love you.í No. After everything Iíve been through this season, after playing when my daughter was in the hospital, not missing a game Ė missing maybe one game Ė playing the same day she had surgery, coming back early after elbow surgery when everybody told me I should come back after a month or month and a half and I came back early to get in the playoffs. I think that shows dedication. That shows commitment. So for anybody to forget that, they have different agendas and that means they didnít like me from the beginning.
Donít be on my side. Donít be on my side. Stay against me, and the people thatís with me, stay with me. Thatíll clear that up."
On whether his impact gets forgotten, as the Kings are 21-22 this season with Artest and 6-13 without him...
"I think so. I think with everything Iíve been through this season, the record when weíre on the court with me wouldíve been better (if it hadn't happened). We wouldíve had a better rhythm (if there were) no suspensions.
So next year, coming into the season Ė given if Iím a King coming into the season Ė the team will jell that much faster and everybody will be ready. There wonít be no more tune-up games. We had a lot of tune-up games this year.
Iím still having a career year. I donít really know how I ended up having a better year. Every year, Iím getting better, so I just feel real confident.
Iím just going to keep working, because in order to win a championship in this league, Iíve got to be able to compete. Iíve got to have somebody on this team that can compete with Kobe and LeBron (James). So Iím not going to leave it to chance." - Sam Amick