by Conrad Brunner
Feb. 28, 2003
Indianapolis, Feb. 28, 2003 -
The NBA didn't have to lay down the law for Ron Artest. He already had prepared to do that himself.
"I set my own ultimatum," he said Friday before the Pacers faced the Milwaukee Bucks. "I know some of the things I've done are a bit extreme. I've seen the penalty. And I don't want it to happen again."
Accompanied by team president Donnie Walsh, Artest met with NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik and Senior Vice President for Basketball Operations Russ Granik, as well as National Basketball Players Association representative Ron Klempner in New York. The meeting was scheduled weeks in advance, but coincided with Artest's most recent outburst - smashing his own picture on the way into the locker room after a loss to Washington, drawing a one-game suspension from coach Isiah Thomas.
"In light of all the suspensions Ron has had, we thought it was important for him to sit down with the league and hear things from their perspective," Walsh said. "It was also important for the league to get a close-up look at Ron. Everyone in the meeting was there to help Ron, therefore it was productive. I believe Ron understands it's now up to him."
Artest has been suspended three times for a total of eight games this season, twice by the league and once by the team.
"They told me they have high expectations for me and they asked me to just go out there, play basketball and have some fun," Artest said. "I understand. I'm trying to get better. I don't care about doing commercials and all that stuff but I'm about to be among the elite players in this league, and I can't be doing that stuff."
Coach Isiah Thomas had taken a tolerant stance with Artest up until the latest incident.
"He's not a jerk," Thomas said. "Clearly, this is something he's having a hard time controlling. He wants to control it. Everybody wants him (to control it). It's not like he's trying to say, 'Screw you' or 'Up yours.' That's not his person. I think the things that are happening to him, clearly he's seeking some help and we're trying to help him with it. It's kind of out of his control. It's not where you can just say, 'Be good, act good,' because he wants to do all those things.
"He's a person that I think if we can all help, at the end of the day we'll all be glad that we put in the work to help him because he can really turn out to be something very positive in this league and also probably in this society. He's ours. We love him. We'll work with him. In the end, he's worth fixing."