Has Artest Silenced the Skeptics?

by Conrad Brunner

April 19, 2004

Monday, April 19, 2004

If you'd like to pose a Question of the Day to Conrad Brunner, submit it along with your full name and hometown to Bruno's_mailbag@pacers.com. Brunner’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Pacers players, coaches or management.

QUESTION
OF THE DAY

Conrad Brunner
Q. I wonder what your thoughts are on Ron Artest's season? How gratifying it has been seeing overcome many of his personal demons and play under control almost every game. Also, he seems to have stepped up his defensive game and overall leadership dramatically. In many ways, he is the heart and soul of our team. He is playing heavy minutes but is no worse for wear, including playing through injuries. But the biggest change is the growth in his offensive game -- certainly unorthodox at times, but nonetheless, effective. As the Pacers second-leading scorer, he seems to have showed some of the nay-sayers (including you last year, if I recall correctly) who said that he put too much emphasis on his offensive game and needed to primarily concentrate on defense. (From Jeff in Goshen, IN)

A. Throughout last season, many of us could only wonder what kind of season he’d be capable of, if only the distractions could be eliminated. This season gave the world a much clearer picture of just what kind of basketball talent Artest possesses. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better perimeter defender on a night-in, night-out basis. Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Joe Dumars, Michael Cooper and Sidney Moncrief are the names that come to mind in the past 20 years, and all were great. Certainly, Artest’s name belongs in their class, if not at the top of the list. His offensive game also has made major strides, primarily in the area of decision-making. He has done a much better job of maximizing his strengths – posting up and making quick moves to the basket inside – while avoiding the temptation of falling into the jump-shooting trap. He can be a devastating player within 15 feet of the basket because of his size and strength. He continues to work on his perimeter game; he needs to improve his 3-point accuracy (.310 this season, .314 for his career) in order to complete his repertoire.

Beyond all that, it’s been remarkable to see him emerge as a cool-headed peacemaker on the floor, routinely stepping in when teammates become involved in altercations to keep things from escalating. It was that instinct, in fact, that might get him suspended for Game 2. When he left the bench in the second quarter of Game 1, he clearly was doing so to protect Jermaine O’Neal from a major flareup. When he quickly realized he was in technical violation of a rule by leaving the bench, he immediately returned to his seat. What irony it would be if the NBA opts to punish him for that.