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 we’re trying to find what type of players the young players are going to turn into. I think right now is a time where we’ve just got to still play hard no matter what. It’s been a tough season. I think we’ve got a lot to learn. Unfortunately, we’ve got a lot of growing to do. It’s like a new seed being planted. We’ve just got to grow, as an organization, as players, as coaches. We’ve just got to grow together. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t jell at this point in the season like I’ve seen, but it’ll be OK.
It’s been tough for me. I’ll tell you that. It’s been real tough. Every game you lose just makes it that much tougher. I guess I’ve grown. When I was in Indiana, right now I would’ve said I wanted to be traded with all these games we’ve 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. It’s a failure. Right now, we still have a chance. Hopefully everybody else loses their games. We’ve 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 didn’t help us at all. That’s been the story a lot this season. At the same time, I think guys really want to win and that’s what makes it harder."
On his absences from the last two games...
"Before the first day, I wasn’t even going to shoot, and I just thought it’d be better if I rest my leg and rest my foot. I thought it’d be better if I just let the guys go get the win. I thought we’d be able to win still.
Then yesterday, we were playing against one of the worst teams in the league and I just thought it’d be better if I just rest my foot because we’ve got a tough schedule coming up. The games we have coming up, to me, were more important. We’ve got all the teams who are trying to get homecourt advantage (in the playoffs). It’s still an important season for them. It’s 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 that’s 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.
It’s very tough. It’s very tough, knowing you have the pieces to compete for a championship, it’s very tough being in this situation right here. You’ve still got to give the young guys a chance to grow, a chance to turn into really good players, and next year hopefully there won’t be no soul searching. It will be, 'If you’re ready, you’re ready; if you’re not, you’re not.'"
On the skepticism that surrounded his absence from the last two games because of a sore foot...
"I’ve 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 that’s 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 would’ve been traded by now, but I’m 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 career’s 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 they’re doubting me, and I’m really hurt, I like those people. Because now you get to see who hates you, who really don’t like you. Because I don’t want people to love me, and then hate me. I always told people I’d rather hate than love because hate is more real with love.
I’d rather get all those people out now, and I want them to stay like that. So when we start winning, don’t come on the bandwagon, alright? Don’t come say, ‘Hey Ron, I love you.’ No. After everything I’ve been through this season, after playing when my daughter was in the hospital, not missing a game – missing maybe one game – 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 didn’t like me from the beginning.
Don’t be on my side. Don’t be on my side. Stay against me, and the people that’s with me, stay with me. That’ll 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 I’ve been through this season, the record when we’re on the court with me would’ve been better (if it hadn't happened). We would’ve had a better rhythm (if there were) no suspensions.
So next year, coming into the season – given if I’m a King coming into the season – the team will jell that much faster and everybody will be ready. There won’t be no more tune-up games. We had a lot of tune-up games this year.
I’m still having a career year. I don’t really know how I ended up having a better year. Every year, I’m getting better, so I just feel real confident.
I’m just going to keep working, because in order to win a championship in this league, I’ve got to be able to compete. I’ve got to have somebody on this team that can compete with Kobe and LeBron (James). So I’m not going to leave it to chance." - Sam Amick