by Conrad Brunner
October 4, 2004
officially unveiled his third jersey number in four seasons at the Pacers’ media day on Monday at Conseco Fieldhouse. The All-Star forward, continuing his goal of wearing numbers in tribute to his favorite former Bulls players, will wear No. 91 in honor of Dennis Rodman.
“I love the way he played, playing defense and rebounding,” said Artest. “I had a chance to wear Michael Jordan’s number (23 the past two seasons). I’m going to hang up this one and move on next year.”
Will he take the tribute so far as growing out his hair and dying it different colors?
“Ya’ll will never see that,” Artest said.
He may run out of tributes soon, because most of the numbers worn by top players from the Bulls championship teams already are taken by his Pacers teammates.
“James Jones has got (Scottie) Pippen (33), Jeff Foster’s got B.J. (Armstrong, 10) and Jermaine (O’Neal) has (Toni) Kukoc (7), so I think I’m almost finished,” Artest said.
And there is a limit to the players he’d like to honor.
“No Bill Wennington, no (Bill) Cartwright, no Luc Longley, definitely not Will Perdue,” Artest said. “I love Will Perdue but I’m not wearing his number.”
Artest also said he might not play beyond the four seasons remaining on his current contract if he wins a title.
“I’m trying to get a ring and I’m out of here,” he said. “Once I get my ring, I’ll do other things.”
What if the Pacers win the championship this season?
“I might retire next year,” he said.
Bird, Artest Put Trade Rumors to Rest
Team President Larry Bird downplayed trade rumors involving Artest that circulated during the offseason as “speculation.”
“Ronnie’s a very valuable player for us,” Bird said. “When you start talking about trading one of your best players, it’s very tough. It didn’t happen, Ronnie’s here and we’re glad to have him. He’s been working hard all summer. We’ve got to get better in a lot of areas, so hopefully not only Ronnie but all the guys can come together and make this thing work.
“I think Ronnie gets better every day. Ronnie’s a heck of a basketball player. There was a lot of speculation this summer but I’m glad he’s on our team because he does so many things for us.”
Artest said he didn’t expect to be dealt.
“I knew I’d be here,” he said. “If it was going to be Shaquille (O’Neal) or Kevin Garnett, or maybe Kobe (Bryant) or Tracy (McGrady), it would’ve been a good trade. Other than that, there were no good trades around.”
Carlisle Impressed By Offseason Results
Several players reported on Monday looking substantially different than last season.
O’Neal weighed in at 260, nearly 20 pounds above last season’s playing weight, the result of heavy lifting throughout the summer. Jonathan Bender reported at a career-high 236. Jamaal Tinsley dropped to 185. Scot Pollard has dropped weight, while Austin Croshere has bulked up.
“Jermaine has gotten stronger. You’re going to notice a difference,” Coach Rick Carlisle said. “Scot Pollard has trimmed down, Croshere has had a great summer of building strength and endurance. Tinsley’s in the mid-180s. These guys haven’t taken the summer off. They’ve worked and it’s been productive and all those things are important headed into camp.”
O’Neal, who suffered a hyperextended left knee during the Eastern Conference Finals, wasn’t cleared to play basketball until Aug. 1. Shortly thereafter, he suffered a foot injury working out in California with Croshere and Reggie Miller. But he is fully healed from both maladies and expects to be on the floor for the first practice of camp Tuesday morning.