You watch the games, you see the scores, but how do you really know what's going on in the 2001 playoffs? NBA.com has infiltrated the action with the ultimate insiders -- the players themselves. We're giving you an exclusive look at the postseason with a roster of player mailboxes that will change with each round.
Ron Artest is chomping at the bit for his first playoff experience in his three-year NBA career. The 6-7 forward spent the first half of 2001-02 with the lowly Bulls before a midseason trade brought him to Indiana and he has relished the opportunity to play for a contender. In the Pacers' Game 1 upset of the top-seeded Nets, Artest scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists. Indiana wasn't as successful as a team in Game 2 and Artest struggled as well, with only four points, but still having six rebounds. Clearly the Pacers rely on him for important production.
At shootaround before Game 3, Artest took the time to answer some fan e-mails.
What was it like in the Pacers locker room after beating the Nets in Game 1 and what did the coach say to the team after the game?
Huber Heights, Ohio
Artest: We felt good about ourselves since New Jersey was a number one seed. We beat them and it gave us a chance to take away the home court advantage and gave us a chance to advance. Coach Thomas told us we played a good game but not to lose our focus and that we needed to come out with the same intensity in Game 2 but we didnít play like we wanted to the next game out.
I'm rooting for you and my boy Mel! I told
everybody in the begining of the play-offs that Da Nets aren't as good
as their record! But, how far do you feel the Pacers can go in the wide
Artest: We can go all the way to the big game. It just depends on how we play and if we play hard enough to go that far.
This is a Chicago Bulls fan and Bulls fan only.
I want to know if your presence as an ex-Chicago Bull has affected your
game and if so how?
Thanks for your time and work harder as a player and soon you will get
the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
P.S. Thanks for giving me the good wins and memories while you were a
Artest: It gave me the opportunity to work on my game and that you have to come to play every night in this league.
Do you think you are a better player now that you are with the
Pacers? I sure think you have stepped up your game since you have been
with them. I think without you the Pacers may not have won some key
games they need to get to the playoffs. Say you beat the Nets, which team
would you like to play and dislike to play?
North Reading, Mass.
Artest: I think I was probably a better player when I was in Chicago but it will just take me a little while to get used to the Pacers team. We are focusing on New Jersey right now but I like our chances against any team in the Eastern Conference.
How does it feel being traded from a non-playoff team to a playoff team
and what adjustments do you have to make to better the team and
Santa Clara, Calif.
Artest: The biggest difference is right now I would be going home and watching the playoff games on television if I was still in Chicago. When youíre on a playoff team youíre still working. You donít know what day it could end for you so thatís why you just keep going hard and hope for the best.
Hey Ron how are you? I was just wondering that since you're a
great defender and defense is a weakness of mine, can you give me some
advice and tips to become a better defender?
Artest: Itís all about desire and playing hard. You have to play as hard on defense as you do on the offensive end. Everyone can score but there are a lot of players that canít keep the other guy from scoring. Do the fundamental things right but make your mind up that youíre going to shut the player down and after that itís all about desire.
How has coming from Chicago helped and hurt you throughout
the rest of this season?
Artest: Coming to Indiana has helped me because when I was in Chicago I was always playing desperate trying to make things happen to win and just playing real hard. When I came to Indiana that just carried over, but I was playing hard even when I was in Chicago.