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OutletPass
09-11-2003, 11:09 AM
Pacers aren't pushing Artest . . . yet
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Thursday, September 11
Updated: September 11
9:43 AM ET


Ten days, a trip to Africa, and 16,000 frequent-flyer miles later, here's what we're hearing around the league. . .


It's nice to see Peter Vescey awake from his summer hibernation. But his report in the New York Post that the Pacers might trade Ron Artest to the Sonics for Brent Barry simply can't happen. Artest is starting the first year of his six-year extension this year. That makes Artest a base-year compensation player. That means in any trade for Artest, the Pacers can take back only $2.7 million of Artest's $5.5 million salary. Barry makes $5.4 million this year, so there's a $2.6 million gap that would have to be made up. While it appears that no one on the Pacers, with the exception of Jermaine O'Neal, is completely safe . . . don't expect the Sonics to blow off Artest this fast. Some in Indiana feel that Artest's bizarre behavior last season was due, in part, to Isiah Thomas' constant pushing of Artest to be the "tough guy" on the team. While Artest had a history of being eccentric before he ever hooked up with Isiah, he never had any serious problems on the court before last year.

Ron Artest
Guard-Forward
Indiana Pacers
Profile


2002-2003 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
69 15.5 5.2 2.9 .428 .736



The truth is Artest was the catalyst for the Pacers' early run last season. When he fell apart, so did the team. If Rick Carlisle can get him in the right mindset (tough, but not too tough) he's an asset, not a liability. Even Artest believes that. He said he's not worried at all that Jermaine O'Neal is still pouting about the firing of Thomas. "I couldn't care less what anyone thinks," he told the New York Times. "I couldn't care less who would've re-signed, truthfully. I'm here to do a job and I go out every night and try to do my job. I know when I wasn't playing last year, we lost a lot of games, and when anybody else on the team wasn't playing, we still found a way to win."

The more the summer wears on, the more I'm liking what Kiki Vandeweghe is doing in Denver. He took the youngest team in the league and added tough veterans in its biggest need area -- the backcourt. The big summer acquisition was Andre Miller, a guy many thought was one of the best young point guards in the league before a disastrous season in L.A. last year. Behind him is Earl Boykins, the Warriors' "closer" in tight games last season. At the two, they added two tough, intelligent vets in Jon Barry and Voshon Lenard. In addition to their experience, both guys are excellent perimeter shooters, which should free up Nene Hilario and Marcus Camby in the paint.

Throw in rookie Carmelo Anthony, an improving Nene and Nikoloz Tskitishvili and a healthy (stop laughing) Marcus Camby, and the Nuggets no longer look like the pushovers they were last season. The best part is that the Nuggets are still looking at $10 to $12 million in cap room next year. If they can become competitive this season, it may be enough to convince a top-flight big man or two guard to join the team next summer. The guy who could be the odd man out in Denver is Rodney White. White started to show signs of life toward the end of last season and finished the year as the team's starting shooting guard. But his lack of defensive intensity and his abysmal perimeter shooting will probably push him to the bench in favor of either Barry or Lenard.

Rodney White
Guard-Forward
Denver Nuggets
Profile


2002-2003 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
72 9.0 3.0 1.7 .408 .784



That leaves White looking for minutes backing up Barry, Lenard and Anthony at the three. Still, White's future is in his own hands. Nuggets sources say he's been working out hard all summer and is in the best shape of his life. If he can come in and show he's matured, especially defensively, it's not out of the question that he could work his way back into the starting role. If he can't, don't be shocked if he's trade bait this season. If the Nuggets don't pick up his fourth year this fall, he'll come off the books at season's end.

All of that talk earlier in the week about the Detroit-Dallas trade was about two weeks old. As Insider reported several weeks ago, at the time of the Lindsey Hunter-for-Michael Curry trade, the Pistons had hoped to do a larger trade that sent Hunter and Chucky Atkins to Dallas for Chris Mills. However, Dallas pulled out of the deal at the last minute. As reported this week, the trade would've only included Hunter and Hubert Davis. That makes little sense for Detroit. The Pistons are trying to clear off one more long-term contract so that they'll be far enough under the cap to re-sign Mehmet Okur, a restricted free agent, next summer. Both Hunter and Davis are in the last years of the contracts. They're coming off the books anyway.

Speaking of Okur, Curry told Insider last week that if he was Pistons president Joe Dumars, he would've made the same trade. "I told Joe that he made the right move in trading me," Curry said. "I didn't want to leave Detroit, but I'm getting old and Mehmet is going to be an all-star." Curry said that Okur was, at times, dominant in practice last season. "He's our second-best rebounder on the team already," Curry said. "And he may be our best low-post scoring option. Mehmet can really do it all. It wouldn't surprise me to see him at the All-Star Game in the next year or two. He's that good." If Okur does blow up this season, the Pistons will probably need to be $6 to $8 million under the cap to re-sign him. Expect Utah and Denver to make a hard push at him next summer. Both teams need big men and both have plenty of money under the cap.

What was really behind Ruben Patterson's trade demand last week? In addition to the bad blood he has with Zach Randolph, Patterson is also in danger of slipping entirely out of the rotation.

Ruben Patterson
Guard-Forward
Portland Trail Blazers
Profile


2002-2003 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
78 8.3 3.4 1.3 .492 .627



Portland's plan, according to league sources, is to play Randolph at the four this season and move Rasheed Wallace to the three. When Wallace isn't playing there, the team wants to give the lion's share of the minutes to second-year swingman Qyntel Woods. Woods dominated in the summer league this year and the team expects him to get around 20 minutes a game this season. That leave Patterson wallowing at the end of the bench. Is there any chance that the Blazers find Patterson a new home? Forget about it. Unless they're willing to package him with someone like Wallace, Randolph or Dale Davis, there isn't anyone in the league who wants Patterson's lethal combination of a bad contract and off-the-court problems.

The hottest rumor at the Africa 100 Camp has Team USA traveling to Belgrade to play Serbia-Montengro next summer in a warm-up before the Olympics in Athens.

While the details have yet to be officially confirmed, several NBA sources said the match is likely to happen. Talk about walking into the lion's den. The Serbians already foster a healthy animosity toward the Americans for the bombing of their country several years ago. Combine that with some of the angriest, most violent fans in the sport and the match gives new meaning to the word hostile environment. It's the NBA equivalent of Rocky heading off to Russia to fight Drago in Rocky IV. Speaking of Team USA, many of the NBA scouts in Africa think that without Tim Duncan, Team USA might not have made it to the Olympics this year.

"There are two players in the world, Shaquile O'Neal and Tim Duncan, that the world has no answer for," one scout said. "Take both of them off the team, and things could've been different in Puerto Rico. If I'm Larry Brown, I'm praying Duncan stays healthy this year. If he gets injured or pulls off of the team somehow, we'll be facing the same situation we did in Indianapolis last year."

Gotta love Stephon Marbury. Two years after he got his divorce from Keith Van Horn in New Jersey, he's still point the finger Van Horn's way. This time Marbury is claiming that Van Horn will ruin the Knicks. While I tend to agree, it is worth pointing out that Van Horn hasn't played a minute in New York. "I don't see it working here for Keith," Marbury told the N.Y. Daily News. "It's a whole other world here. I don't see Keith playing here long. I don't think he'll want to play here long. He's been put in this situation... . The atmosphere and the team is not suitable for him." Why not?

"You've got to be way tougher than Keith is to play in New York," said Marbury. Marbury should know. His career didn't exactly take off until he was shipped out of the New York area to Phoenix two years ago.