Ron Artest will be unpredictable when he's 80 years old.
Or, if nothing else, he'll be perceived that way by the masses - myself included.
So while every conceivable sign other than Peter Vecsey's column point to his return, the actual part of it becoming official still wholeheartedly matters. That could happen at any point until 9 p.m. Pacific tonight, even though it (probably, most likely, bet most of my mortgage) won't.
His agent, Mark Stevens, has consisently said it's 99 percent for certain he'd be back, leaving the one percent just because that's his job. In my latest e-mail exchange with Artest, he didn't hold back from going all the way. (Short aside: this whole saga could have been eliminated if he had filed a written letter - which he hasn't - saying he was staying rather than wait for the deadline.)
"Yes, (Sacramento) is where I'm staying," he wrote on Thursday. "But I still think about all my critics. ... (There) will come to a time when I can go where I want, basically...It's a major turnaround. Everywhere I go, somebody or some fan wants me to play on their team - from San (Antonio) to Boston and even Detroit."
Speaking of turnarounds (of the 100-degree sort), I decided I have done a turnaround of my own. With the written word leaving room for interpretation and confusion, it now seems as if the turnaround he wrote of was less directly related to opting out. The point Artest was making, in the end, is that he's gone from a player so many teams were afraid to touch because of his soiled name to a player whose value is on the serious rise. And he's right.
Artest will be highly coveted via trade this summer and perhaps this season, because he still plays top-notch defense and can score and has put some distance between himself and all serious controversy. Always unpredictable, but insanely talented too.
* Speaking of his ever-improving reputation, Artest has a new web home that is one of the more slick and smart sites I've seen - www.ronartest.com.
From a PR standpoint, it goes the wise route of highlighting the many positive attributes of Artest and his different charity involvements. The opening page has Artest's new PETA mantra - "Have the balls to spay or neuter your dog." The links include one for XCel University, Artest's new program in which he'll focus on helping at-risk, impoverished kids find a way to get to college. The reality from an NBA standpoint, of course, is that teams will see this sort of continuing image makeover and feel a little better about trying to make a play for him. - Sam Amick