by Conrad Brunner
March 29, 2004
Indianapolis, March 29, 2004
His ankle is sprained. His nose might be broken. His surgically repaired left thumb still requires a heavy protected wrap on game nights.
Through it all, Ron Artest just keeps on coming. The Pacers’ All-Star forward was named NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week for last week (ending March 28). He led the Pacers to a 4-0 record, averaging 22.0 points, 4.5 assists and 4.5 steals versus Chicago, Dallas, Orlando and Miami. Though he didn't practice Monday because of soreness in the right ankle he sprained against Miami on Sunday, he will play in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. He plans to have his nose, which was whacked in the fourth quarter of the Heat game, examined Thursday.
“It’s a tribute to the winning,” Artest said. “I don’t think we lost last week, and that had a lot to do with it.”
Artest won the weekly honor for the second time this season (he also won for the week ending Nov. 9) and the third time since coming to the Pacers. But he’s not particularly impressed with himself.
“All the awards will add up later,” he said. “There’s too much going on to add them up right now.”
Artest was at his best when needed the most. Leading scorer Jermaine O’Neal missed two games last week with a bone bruise in his left knee. In those two games, Artest averaged 27.5 points (including a career-high 35 against Orlando), 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 steals.
"He was one of the guys, especially in the Orlando game, who came up big,” O’Neal said. “I think Al Harrington did a great job. Austin Croshere did a great job. Jeff Foster could have won it. So many guys stepped up and did a great job, just like when (Artest) was out. They were able to step in and get wins for us. That's what this team is about. ... Any guy, you could go down the roster and pick, but obviously Ron was the leading guy and that's the reason he's Player of the Week."
Coach Rick Carlisle concurred with O’Neal’s assessment.
“The award is certainly deserved,” Carlisle said. “It was much-needed for our team that he stepped forward and had that kind of a week in the absence of Jermaine for two games. All year, we’ve had people step forward when we’ve had injuries. When Ron was out, Al stepped out and played well. Austin has stepped into the rotation. And we’ve had other people step forward from the bench. To have a successful year from start to finish you have to have your depth people ready to play at a high level and that’s been one of the keys to our season.”
Kobe Bryant of the Lakers was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. He guided the Lakers to a 3-0 week, averaging a stellar 35.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in wins over Sacramento, Minnesota and Utah. He posted 36 points in 37 minutes in the Lakers 115-91 rout of the Western Conference-leading Sacramento Kings.
Other nominees were Golden State’s Erick Dampier, Houston’s Yao Ming, Miami’s Lamar Odom and Dwyane Wade, Philadelphia’s Kenny Thomas and Portland’s Damon Stoudamire.