| 5 years ago||class of '08 - away - #1|
Ron Artest, the 30-year-old, first-year starter with the Los Angeles Lakers, may yet prove to be a crucial piece of an improved championship puzzle.
But those who are counting on one of the league's most explosive personalities to avoid controversy with his fifth NBA team may want to temper their expectations.
In a lengthy interview for the December 7 issue of Sporting News magazine, Artest—best known as the central figure in the infamous Malice at the Palace in 2004—bared all, including a startling admission that he drank alcohol during games as a member of the Chicago Bulls, for whom he played from 1999-2002.
"I used to drink Hennessy … at halftime," Artest says in the interview, which hits newsstands this week. "I (kept it) in my locker. I'd just walk to the liquor store (near the stadium) and get it."
Artest speaks openly in the interview on many other sensitive topics.
* On his life as a St. John's star and a first-round draft pick, Artest says: "When I was a 19-year-old father, whew. I was a single pimp! I was wild. A lot of marijuana and alcohol—even before (that age). … I (still) party and I have fun, but not like I used to. I used to drink every night and party every night."
* On why things fell apart for him in Chicago and Indiana: "It was all my fault. The first team, in Chicago, I was a head case. I worked really hard but still had this ghetto thing in me that I could not get out. … I could've stayed at Indiana my whole career, but I said I wanted to be traded. I was getting more stable, but I was still unstable and I was a bad teammate. They had to get rid of me."
* On the 2004 brawl in Detroit for which Artest was suspended 73 games and lost $7 million in salary: "It wasn't my fault. … I don't see anything I could have done different. The only thing I could have done was have God pause time so I could have said, 'Oh, look, you're about to run in some stands, so stop.'"
* On the Rockets' loss to the Lakers in the 2009 Western Conference semifinals: "(Referee) Joey Crawford basically said, 'Who cares about the Houston Rockets? Kobe Bryant is on the floor.'"
* On comparisons with Trevor Ariza, the player he replaced at small forward in the Lakers' starting lineup: "I really don't understand why people compare me to him, or try. With what I've done in this league already, I mean, seriously? … I think it's the hype behind (a championship)."
* On accepting a role in Bryant's supporting cast: "It's weird because people don't think about the whole basketball game. There's offense: Kobe averages 30 and is a great offensive player. Then you have defense. So on defense, now I have my supporting cast. … I'm one of the best defenders to ever play basketball, so I'm still the first option on defense."
* On his feelings toward Ben Wallace, the Pistons center whose altercation with Artest touched off the melee in Detroit: "I see Ben, I'm on my guard now. I'm always in the mood to f!ght him. … I'll get suspended 10 games, 15 games (because) I'll just f!ght him right there. It won't go into the stands."
Artest also reveals his plans to become a professional boxer: "I started training two years ago," he says. "In four years, I'm going to try to have my first f!ght."
But the comments that may follow him most closely in the coming weeks are about drinking alcohol during games early in his career, which Artest says happened in part because the Bulls lost so often.
Previously, Artest hid any use of alcohol and marijuana well, according to his former coach at St. John's, Fran Fraschilla.
"It's a surprise because every day at practice, he came out in a mood to play. He came out in a basketball rage," said Fraschilla, now an analyst for ESPN. "He was fully committed; he wanted to let our upperclassmen know that he was the alpha male.
"It never came up that he had any sort of a problem with alcohol. This is the first I've heard of it."
SN Conversation with Ron Artest: 'I used to drink Hennessy at halftime' - Steve Greenberg - NBA - Sporting News
and he wanted no part of ben wallace. he needs to stop