Will Bird's Presence Calm Artest?

by Jeff Tzucker
by Conrad Brunner

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

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

Conrad Brunner

Q. Do you think Larry Bird can be the much needed calming influence on Ron Artest? Ron's a great player who was just allowed to get out of hand last year. I just don't see Larry's no-nonsense leadership style allowing the outrageous antics of last season. (From Kim in Indianapolis)

A. For those who caught Artest’s act last week on FOX’s “Best Damn Sports Show, Period,” you might see some discouraging signs. Artest wore a Pacers jersey bearing No. 91 – and a tie around his bare neck. At one point in the interview, he put headphones on his forehead. At another, he munched on crackers while answering a question. The overall effect was at once humorous and disturbing. Artest’s motivation appeared to be to lighten the tone of an otherwise somber interview about the firing of Isiah Thomas and the imminent hiring of Rick Carlisle. And Artest’s answers supported the Pacers without being critical of Thomas. So the substance was there, albeit hidden by some peculiar style.

While it seems inevitable that Bird’s straightforward approach and Artest’s occasionally obtuse behavior will intersect at some point, Artest understands the harm his suspensions did the team last season, contributing to the second-half collapse. And he bristles at the notion that his antics have overshadowed his performance as a player. So Artest has plenty of inner motivation to keep it between the lines this season. Bird’s authoritative presence should only help.