As the hours leading up to the Ron Artest trade passed so slowly, I decided to kill time with a call to Kevin Martin.
The Kings shooting guard was a bit out of touch when the news broke back in late July, as he was vacationing in Tahiti. Martin learned of the trade while hitting the weights in a gym in Bora Bora, when some passerby broke the news to him. So with the formalization of the trade still on track for this afternoon and the pieces believed to be the same (Artest, Sean Singletary and Patrick Ewing Jr. to Houston for Bobby Jackson, Donte Greene and a 2009 first-round draft pick), take a moment to get Martin's take on the future of the Kings franchise without Ron-Ron.
Well, no more Ron-Ron. What do you think?
It's another chapter. Life without Mike (Bibby) and Ron, huh? Ever since (Artest) came over here, my game started to change because of how much he challenged me. I've got so much respect for him on the court. I'm sad to see him go.
You get a chance to talk to him?
I was in Tahiti, so I talked to him the next day when I got back. I said, 'I came back in the states, and you're a Rocket!' We talked a little bit.
In Houston now, they're talking about Ron and all his baggage just like they did when he came to Sac. But looking at him from the time he got here to now, how would you describe playing with him as a teammate?
Of course he's going to (come with) baggage, but when he was in Sac he kept it under control. We would've never made the playoffs (in 2006) if he wasn't on the team. The next couple of years, we were playing with injuries and everything but I think Ron - how can I say this? - he proved he's back to being a star in this league and that he has a lot of years left.
His off-the-court issues started calming down, and he was more focused on just being a basketball player again. And one thing with Ron, too, is that he does so many things in the community that people don't realize. He shocked a lot of people around the league with getting back on track. I'm happy for him and hope he does well, and he said the same to me. We respect each other in that form.
What do you see that Rockets squad doing, considering they won 55 (games) last season and now they're adding Ron?
They'll definitely get out of the first round (of the playoffs). I'll say that. They have three stars down there now and a great coach in Rick Adelman who is the best players coach around in the league now. You won't have any tension there, and he knows what he's going to have to do to get there.
What are your thoughts on this new Kings reality, the fact that you're essentially the No. 1 guy and this new core of Beno (Udrih), you, John (Salmons), Mikki (Moore), the up-and-comer in Jason (Thompson) and Brad (Miller) and Spencer (Hawes). As you look at the future, how do you see it?
As I look at the future, I always want guys around me who work hard. I always respected a guy who worked hard, somebody like Bobby Jackson - who I learned my work ethic from. A lot of times it's not about the ra-ra. It's about just working hard and giving everything you've got. As I learned, if you do that everything else will fall in place. It's not going to be just about one guy. You saw a couple of years ago, Kobe (Bryant) was scoring 30 a night and they didn't make the playoffs.
From my position, it's about getting everybody on board, everybody with the same goal, everybody working hard and getting back to that because no one guy is going to win anything.
How much of an advantage will it be having one year under your belt with (second-year Kings coach) Reggie (Theus) and with you guys knowing each other like you do now?
That's big. (The coaching staff) put down their basic points in place last year and now we've just got to get better at it. The communication is a lot better now, and really there's no excuses. Even with Ron leaving, there's no excuses. It's like when Bonzi (Wells) left Sac (in the summer of 2006) and it was my opportunity, I think everybody just needs to step up and that's going to start with working harder in the summer.
When you look at this squad and if you guys stay healthy, what kind of realistic expectations do you have?
Well if you look back at last year, when me, Mike and Ron were out they were playing well. Then I got inserted back in with the team, they were still playing well and then I came on strong. Hopefully something like that happens and you have more highs than lows. With that said, our focus is to get to the playoffs. You've got to start there. You can't focus on finishing ninth or 10th (laughs) or the .500 mark. Whatever is going to get you in the playoffs is what you have to strive for.
So did your phone even work in Tahiti?
No. I found out (about the trade) when I went in the weight room, and some guy was like, 'So you guys got rid of Ron?' I was like, 'huh?' It was kind of weird how I found out.
MORE WAITING GAME MATERIAL
After the Yao-Artest exchange on Wednesday, July 30 had me seriously wondering if the Rockets might be scared out of this deal, a more-refined Ron-Ron put his best face on for an ESPN Sunday Night conversation that is definitely worth watching.
* The Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen wasted no time in getting to know Artest, traveling back to New York for a look at his roots in this piece.
* As for the scheduled programming, Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie is expected to address the media after the deal is official later this afternoon. Greene, who did a spot on KHTK a few weeks back, has declined numerous requests from the Bee for an interview and may have his own press conference tomorrow. - Sam Amick