Carlisle Defends Artest After Popovich’s Attack

by Conrad Brunner

April 27, 2004

Oddly enough, Rick Carlisle and Gregg Popovich agree: when it comes to determining the best defensive player in the NBA, the opinions that matter the most are those of the league’s head coaches.

And, in All-Defensive team balloting by the coaches, Ron Artest was the leader.

In supporting Spurs player Bruce Bowen, Popovich -- interviewed on Ticket 760 radio in San Antonio Monday night -- lashed out at Artest, Carlisle and the Pacers organization for campaigning on Artest’s behalf for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Popovich’s comments were posted on the website of San Antonio TV station WOAI.

“It’s obvious to me he didn’t realize there was somebody from the (TV station’s) website copying down all the comments being made on a local radio show,” Carlisle said after practice Tuesday. “I understand where Pop’s coming from. He has a strong belief in his player and obviously I have a strong belief in mine. I don’t believe he’d make some of those comments if he’d known they were going to show up the next day on the Internet, but they did.

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“The one thing I will agree with Pop on is that the coaches’ vote is the most important, and in the coaches’ vote, Ron was clearly the highest vote-getter. It really should make any other arguments moot on who the best defensive player was.”

Rick Carlisle

“The one thing I will agree with Pop on is that the coaches’ vote is the most important, and in the coaches’ vote, Ron was clearly the highest vote-getter. It really should make any other arguments moot on who the best defensive player was.”

The media selects the Defensive Player of the Year. Artest received 80 first-place votes in winning that award. Bowen, with two first-place votes, was fourth.

“The media’s got no clue who’s good and who’s bad,” Popovich said. “The coaches vote on (all-defensive) first team and second team and Bruce Bowen is right there on the first team where he belongs.”

As is Artest, who received 26 first-team votes and 54 points overall, the most of any player in the coaches’ vote. Bowen received 18 first-team votes and 41 points.

"Bruce guards the best player on the other team almost every single night," said Popovich. "Artest doesn't do that. Artest just looks the part. He looks like a big, tough guy. He whacks and gets knocked out of the game once in a while and gets suspended. He just looks the part.”

Popovich was strongly critical of the results of a study performed by the team’s video crew, who analyzed all of Artest’s defensive possessions during the regular season and produced the following statistic: players Artest guarded averaged 8.1 points and 9.3 shots per game with a shooting percentage of .426.

"What a bunch of baloney," said Popovich. "Totally unsubstantiated stats put out by Indiana. The media bought it and then the NBA printed those stats. I am amazed by that.”

He also criticized Carlisle for calling media representatives on Artest’s behalf.

"We'll never do that," Popovich commented. "It's not our style. It makes no sense.”

Bowen had no comment on the debate, and Artest had little to say, other than to suggest he and Bowen should play one-on-one for the trophy.

“Coach Pop,” Artest said, “has got to go talk to the coaches.”