The Rockets did a conference call with owner Les Alexander, general manager Daryl Morey and Ron Artest to announce that the trade had become official. No new news. Rick Adelman didn't participate to talk about how Artest will fit into a lineup seemingly set with Shane Battier at small forward, Luis Scola at power forward and Tracy McGrady at shooting guard, and Alexander brushed off concerns about Artest's emotions as being in the distant past.
Most interesting was Morey saying the Rockets and Kings had been talking about an Artest deal during last season. It didn't get done then because Houston acquired Bobby Jackson from New Orleans just before the trade deadline and Jackson had obvious appeals to Sacramento: expiring contract, good guy to have around, doesn't hurt that he's very popular with fans at a time of dwindling attendance.
Jackson as a Rocket, with the No. 1 pick that came later, Donte' Greene, finally made it happen.
The three participants spoke for about 20 minutes, with an opening statement followed by questions from reporters. The Q-and-A portion jumped around from person to person, but is grouped here for the sake of clarity.
Opening statement: Ron's acquisition by the Rockets is really meaningful. What really sticks out about Ron are his recent statements on "Pardon the Interruption" and other places (are) his great desire to win and to get a ring. He will fit in great with our current players, as they have the same burning desire. Winning is winning.
Our hope for this season is to go very deep in the playoffs. We think we have the team to do that, and adding Ron really helps us dramatically.
Question: During your years owning this team, you've pulled the trigger on some really big deals: (Charles) Barkley, (Clyde) Drexler, (Scottie) Pippen, the trade for Steve Francis was a big deal at the time. Where do you think this one fits in among the deals you've signed off on?
Answer: So far the biggest trade was Clyde because we won the championship with him. Tracy's pretty big too. And I think this guy really put us over the top in terms of what we need. I'm really trying to hold my excitement down. We have a great team to start on the floor and a bench. I think we're going to go really far. He really adds another element to this team. Daryl described all the elements he adds, but once you see him on the floor with the great players we have, it really makes us hard to beat.
Q: Did you have any hesitations on this or were you on board right away? Did you need to run it by any members of the family? Anybody else in the organization?
A: When you make big trades and you do things like this, you're always thinking about both sides. Otherwise you wouldn't be a good owner. People talk about Sacramento not getting enough. I think they got a lot. They got a first-round pick next year. We love this Donte Greene. We think he's going to be a terrific player. And they got Bobby Jackson. So we gave up a lot to get Ron. When you do that, you always have a lot of reservations.
Q: But anything because of his history?
A: In this league, a lot of guys are different when they've matured. Ron's only 28-and-a-half. He's a different person now, I think, than he was years ago. I think he cares about his on-court performance and how well his team's going to do more than he has in his life.
I happened to be on the golf course where I live in the summer and Greg Anthony was on the course. We started chatting about Ron. The same thing came out of our mouths at the same time. "Ron wants to win." That's going to be the most important thing.
Morey (from Beijing for the Olympics)
Opening statement: This offseason, one of our goals was to add a significant player. We feel we've been able to do that and more with Ron Artest, a former All-Star, a player who plays both ends of the floor at a significant level, someone who plays multi positions to give coach Adelman the options of the players he needs to lead us to the championship.
Question: Can you talk us through the process on this trade. How long between the time that you and Geoff (Petrie) first talked did it get completed? Did he call you to suggest it? Did you call him?
Answer: Acquiring Ron is something we had discussed with Geoff and Wayne Cooper (the Kings' VP of basketball operations). Both staffs, on the Rockets and Kings side, had talked about it for some time. Before the trade deadline this past year, at that time the pieces just didn't fit together.
But we continued to talk and we always felt like Ron was a player that if we could acquire for the right pieces would, as we're talking about today, add a significant upgrade. The talks heated up probably about a week before it hit the news media where I think both sides moved a little bit to get to the final deal that's being announced today.
Q: When you say the pieces weren't in place in February, was that the Bobby Jackson situation or was there something else?
A: You'd probably have to ask Geoff which pieces were important to him. But we didn't have Bobby Jackson, at the trade deadline we didn't have Donte Greene. Other pieces were talked about, but it didn't make sense for either side until things heated up for this trade here.
Q: Since Rick is not on the call, I know it's asking you to look into the future a little bit, but can you speak to how this team will take the court? Do you see Ron coming off the bench? Do you see a different role for Shane Battier? How do you think this shakes out?
A: I think that's a question you have for coach Adelman, as you say. Our focus and the focus coach Adelman had given me was add good players. Coach Adelman is one of the best in the league at taking good players and putting them together and taking their strengths to make them win.
Opening statement: This is definitely a great opportunity, like I have expressed in past interviews, to be a Houston Rocket. First, you've got to give thanks to God in situations like this. When you get a chance to make a lot of good, positive moves in your life, you've always got to thank God. And secondly, I've got to definitely thank my family for being by me and being by my side throughout the entire time, throughout my whole career.
Outside of that, I've definitely got to give thanks to the Maloofs for giving me a chance in Sacramento and Mr. Petrie for seeing my vision and helping me at an important, crucial time in my career and definitely all the other general managers and coaches that I've played for throughout the league in helping me out and tuning my skills and helping me become a winner.
I get to bring that to Houston and be with the guys and coach Adelman, so I've definitely got to thank all those coaches and players and organizations that I've played for. I'm looking forward to giving the Houston Rockets a hundred-and-fifty percent.
Question: Among the many moments that you have had in your career, where does this one stack up, joining Houston?
Answer: It's huge. The NBA is a great league with many great organizations, and when you get a chance to play with the same organization (as) Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde the Glide and all those guys, you've got to appreciate that. This is definitely the high point of my career. This is the biggest opportunity that I ever had playing basketball.
Q: What does it mean that Yao (Ming) and Tracy both really raved about getting you here?
A: That meant a lot to have the two faces of the city and the franchise really accept me and make me feel comfortable coming in as a Rocket and definitely getting a chance to play with a good defensive specialist in Shane Battier. I never had an opportunity to play with another wing player that could play defense almost as well as I can play defense. Usually, I'm having to guard all the best players. Getting the chance to play with a great defensive player such as Shane Battier, that's going to be great.
Rafer Alston, he's come a long way. I can't wait to just be a part of that. Those guys, they were a major impact on that 23-(game) winning streak. I want to hopefully help to push it to 24 and 25 and finish out No. 1.
(The streak was actually 22 in a row. Which is why Alexander jumped in with, "I think if we would have had you last year, Ron, we would have gotten to 23. We got stopped at 22 last year." Artest, following up: "I should definitely make the team better. There's definitely no ifs, ands or buts about it. I already know the type of coach Adelman is and I definitely should be able to help out.")
Q: Knowing the Rockets as you do and having heard Daryl mention your versatility, how do you view yourself best fitting in? How can you best help the Rockets?
A: When Adelman had me on the court in Sacramento, he used me at every single position. Sometimes he would play me at (shooting guard) when there was a dominant (shooting guard) such as Kobe (Bryant) or Dwyane Wade. Or Steve Nash was killing us one time in Phoenix. (Adelman) put me at (point guard). He put me at (center).
I work on my game every summer, so I get better. I don't make a big jump at one specific thing, but I make a good enough leap at everything to be able to play any position. So I'll be ready. That's how I prepare my game. Whatever Adelman needs me to do. Come off the bench, sixth, seventh man, start. I don't even care. Whatever he needs me to do, I'm a hundred percent sure it's going to work.
Q: How do you view this trade as the best opportunity of your career? What do you expect for this next season, from yourself and from this team?
A: Before this opportunity, the best team I was on was the Indiana team. That was a big opportunity. We probably could have won about two championships in a row. I always prayed to ask God to give me another shot at giving me a championship - I don't care if it comes now or if it comes in my 20th year of my career. And it came sooner than later, so I've definitely got to thank God for that. He put me in a great position.
Q: Are you comfortable playing that (power forward) spot? And perhaps (shooting guard) as well?
A: Scola's is a great (power forward). (Chuck) Hayes is a great (power forward). Battier's a great (small forward). Tracy is a great (shooting guard) and (small forward). It doesn't really matter. In Indiana, I played a lot of four. I guarded Shaq, I guarded Tim Duncan, I guarded (Carlos) Boozer. I was successful against a lot of those guys, at least for some minutes, and I was successful against a lot of wing players and I know I can guard some point guards, so it doesn't matter.
Q: Much has been made of your relationship with coach Adelman. Can you explain what is there, what makes that work with him?
A: Like I told people, the game is so easy for him. It comes easy. He knows exactly what to do at any point in the game. When I played for him, he said, "You've got to do this, you've got to do this. It's going to work." I remember it always working.
I remember telling him when I got to Sacramento that "We're going to try to win this championship" and he totally agreed with me. I was like, "Wow, I have a coach who's on the same page and he's not afraid." That makes me feel comfortable. He said, "Ron, we're going to go as far as you take us." I said, "All right, let's go."
And we could have beat the Spurs, but Bonzi Wells got hurt in the third quarter and I got hurt in the first quarter. We probably would have beat the Spurs that series and I sat out Game 2. I remember that and I remember that opportunity we had and I remember who was coaching as well. I never thought in my lifetime I would have the chance to play with him again. Things just don't happen like that. To have a chance to play with coach again, I'm looking forward to being part of the family.