INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird apparently has reached his boiling point with Ron Artest.
Bird made his first public comments regarding Artest on Monday, telling the Indianapolis Star that he felt “betrayed” and “disappointed” by his All-Star forward.
“I think enough is enough,” Bird told the newspaper. “I think Ronnie will do fine, but not here.”
Pacers CEO and president Donnie Walsh told the Rocky Mountain News that 10 teams are still in the running for Artest and will "narrow it down in the next couple of days."
The Rocky Mountain News also cited a source saying that the Nuggets were among the top three candidates to get Artest, and another is the Minnesota Timberwolves.
One of the NBA’s greatest talents, Artest also is one of the league’s most mercurial personalities. The 26-year-old was placed on the inactive list by the Pacers earlier this month and was subsequently fined $10,000 by the league for publicly requesting a trade.
Bird, who spent the last 10 days on a scouting trip in Europe, finally disclosed his disappointment with Artest.
“I don’t know if this is the right wording, but I felt betrayed,” Bird said. “We’re disappointed. Things happen, maybe it’s a good thing. He’s a very talented player. I always liked working with him and how he went about things on the basketball court. He’s a top-12 player in the league, but we’re in a situation where we have to move on.”
Bird went on to criticize Artest, who recently complained about the size of his role in the Pacers’ offense.
“He was clearly frustrated,” Bird said. “Ronnie thinks if we lose, we would have won the game if he had the ball every time. The offense bogs down at times, but it’s still a great offense. He held the ball a lot of times. Nothing frustrated me more than him not rebounding, but I didn’t go out in the public and say anything.”
“Any time you deal a player, you would like him to go out of the conference,” Bird said. “We’re looking at the West, but if it’s the East, that’s how it’s going to be. ... We’ve done enough to back Ronnie. We’re in a position where we have to protect the franchise now.”
Before being placed on the inactive list, Artest was averaging 19.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and a league-leading 2.63 steals in 16 games.
Last season, Artest was suspended 75 games - the longest non-drug ban in NBA history - for his major role in the brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills on November 19, 2004.
After a scuffle on the court with Detroit Pistons center Ben Wallace, Artest was hit with a partially full plastic cup thrown from the stands and charged into the seats, attacking a fan he believed threw the cup.
The incident triggered a full-scale riot between players and fans and led to changes in security measures at all NBA arenas. Artest later faced criminal charges but was sentenced to probation and community service.
In the 2002-03 season, Artest was suspended for instigating an altercation with Miami Heat coach Pat Riley and fined and suspended for smashing a TV camera after a game at Madison Square Garden. He also got into a shoving match with a Pacers official after a postseason loss.
Despite Artest’s lengthy history of emotional problems, Bird realizes that the loss of a player of his caliber weakens the Pacers on the court. But that is something he seems more than willing to deal with.
“I’m not going to say we’re better (if we trade Artest). That’s not going to happen when you lose a player like Ronnie,” Bird said. “As far as chemistry goes, we’re a lot better. We’re still deep. We have some emotional guys, but we’ll be fine.”
Indiana lost Game 1 in OT on a LeBron James layup at the buzzer. Game 2 offers a chance to even the series.
PBT: Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that the Heat have a more effective plan of attack against Roy Hibbert than the Knicks.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
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