Crazy night. And crazy morning. I have spent the last several hours speaking with colleagues about the free agency craze that's been ongoing. As The Bee's Kings beat writer Sam Amick long has predicted, Ron Artest remained with the club for $7.4 million and the final year or his contract. Ron-Ron made a wise move. He has another season to distance himself from brawls, domestic and animal neglect incidents, and prove to contending clubs that he could be a critical piece in a championship run.
Count me among the true believers. I bought in a long time. I also believe that if Geoff Petrie doesn't offer a longterm extension - which is highly unlikely, for all the obvious reasons, among them the fact the Kings are rebuilding and wouldn't benefit from a restless Artest - the veteran small forward is confident that Petrie will swap him to a contender. There is a genuine level of trust involved here, strange as it sounds.
Meantime, there should be no reason to doubt that Artest will continue to compete at an incredibly high level. The man is one of the game's great gamers. Rather, the issue is whether he neglects what he does best -- defend at a level that ranks with the all-time greats - and becomes consumed by offense, field goal attempts, and proving he's a great scorer. He's not Michael Jordan, but he might be a better defender than Jordan.
Baron Davis does WHAT?
It was interesting to learn that Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy was in New York last night in his aggressive pursuit of Kings free agent point guard Beno Udrih. But I have to wonder about two things. Is Clips owner Donald Sterling suddenly sympatico with his coach, with whom he has been feuding with for several months? And how does Baron Davis' stunning decision to opt out of a Warriors'contract that would pay almost $18 million next season factor into the equation?
I suspect the Clips will re-sign their free agent Elton Brand, the face of their franchise, and one of the league's class acts. I also believe that Sterling (via Elgin Baylor) will indeed make a serious pitch for Davis, who is from L.A., went to UCLA, produces movies in L.A., etc., etc., etc. Plus, having covered the Clips and The Donald for almost 10 years, I can say this unequivocally: the man is obsessed with superstars. He doesn't necessarily want to pay them, but he loves them.
If Baylor can convince Sterling to open his wallet, there is little likelihood that Warriors' owner Chris Cohan will match the deal and retain his oft-injured veteran point guard.
Sterling and Hollywood stars
One of the most revealing facets of Sterlng's ownership style is this: Instead of summoning the moving vans in the dead of night and sneaking his 1983-84 San Diego Clippers to Anaheim, where he would dominate the NBA market, he opted for the Los Angeles Sports Arena (and later, to share the Staples Center with the Lakers) because he refuses to contemplate the possibility that the good life exists outside a block or two of the I-10, I-5 or Harbor Freeways. He's an L.A. guy all the way. Strange.