How Will Artest’s Return to Practice Help Team?

by Conrad Brunner

January 22, 2005

Monday, January 22, 2005
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Conrad Brunner

Q. I've read that Ron Artest has been cleared to return to practice. How valuable with this be to the team from both a skills and a morale boost? How is Ron at instilling some of his defensive skills in the other players? Is he an effective mentor? Also, will he be able to attend games or is he still banned from the stadium 2 hours beforehand? The article also mentioned that the Pacers are hoping the NBA will reduce the suspension, but Donnie Walsh has not heard anything. Is this even under review? Is there cause to hope? (From Terry in Fort Wayne, IN)

A. Artest's presence in practice should be beneficial in several ways. At the most basic level, having a player of his skill and intensity on the floor will only raise the overall level of competition in practice and that, in turn, should help everyone. Coaches like to say a team plays like it practices, and having Artest available will certainly improve the practice intensity.

Artest also will benefit because he can end his isolation and once again become a part of the team. The past few weeks have been very difficult for him because not only has he not been able to do what he does best – play basketball – his only workouts have been independent from the rest of the team. Artest's morale, in particular, should get a big boost from being back around his teammates.

Though there has been quite a bit of blind media speculation that the league's decision to allow him to practice was a portent of things to come, there is absolutely no reason to support the theory that Artest's suspension will be reduced or its terms otherwise altered. Considering the vigor with which the NBA fought the appeals filed by the players' union on behalf of Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson, it just doesn't follow that the league would suddenly relent. The suspensions have been issued by the league, appealed by the union and adjudicated by the legal system. The next time Artest will be allowed to attend, or play in, a Pacers game will be the beginning of the 2005-06 season.