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Artest gives NBA black eye
By PETE LAMONT, MOP Squad Sports Editor-in-Chief
Nov 22, 2004 - 11:38:00 AM

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So, Ron Artest is going to get the time off he was asking for to finish up and promote his forthcoming rap album, after all.

NBA League Commissioner David Stern has suspended Artest, who was at the heart of last Friday?s ugly brawl between the Pacers, the Pistons, and certain members of the crowd at the Palace, for the remainder of the 2004-05 season.

By now, most people are familiar with the events that unfolded with 45.2 seconds to play in the 97-82 Pacers win over the Pistons, as well as the aftermath from these events, so there?s little reason to recap the scenario.

Was Artest the only person at fault on Friday night? Certainly not. There?s blame enough to go around to many individuals. You can look at Ben Wallace who probably overreacted to the hard foul from Artest when he shoved Artest in the neck. You can look at Stephen Jackson, who should never have entered the stands in an attacking mode. You can look at Jermaine O?Neal for also going after the fans. You can look at the fan who threw the cup at Artest. You can look at the other fans that threw garbage on the Pacers? team as they exited the court. You can look at the game officials, who did not do enough to keep the altercation under control. You can look at Pistons team president Tom Wilson, for not providing adequate security in the Palace on Friday night game against the team?s key rival.

However, at the heart of this remains Artest? this era?s resident Bad Boy.

Artest has gone through his entire career with a reputation as someone with a short temper. A few years back, he grabbed a television camera from a cameraman during a game and smashed it to the ground. He?s been through various suspensions for on-court altercations since coming into the league. In short, he?s not exactly what the league would term a ?model citizen.?

There was no reason for Artest?s foul on Wallace. With the Pacers up by 15 points with under a minute to go, the game was well in hand. As Wallace was quoted as saying, ?There wasn?t going to be a 15-point play.? Jackson, the initial defender on Wallace, realized that letting the Pistons score a garbage basket wasn?t going to make a difference, and he pulled off the play.

Artest wasn?t trying to prevent the basket when he fouled Wallace, he was trying to provoke a response. After Artest fouled Wallace, he immediately got into a defensive position ? not as in playing defense on the court, but as in a defensive fighting position. He knew what he was doing, and he was preparing himself for Wallace?s reaction.

Such is life in a rivalry series? and the Pistons-Pacers rivalry has been at heated and ugly (even before Friday?s events) as any rivalry in sports over the last few seasons. Both teams have fought hard in order to maintain the upper hand in the series.

Artest knew what he was doing after being shoved by Wallace, as well. By making a point of going over to the scorer?s table and laying down, he was trying to evoke a reaction from the league office. The commissioner reviews all flagrant fouls. Lying down on the scorer?s table was nothing more than his version of a hockey player flopping on the ice, trying to draw a penalty from the referee.

Now, as stated earlier, others are not blameless. The Pistons front office is reviewing the actions of fans at the game. Wilson has said that any season-ticket holder identified as being involved in the altercation will have his or her season tickets revoked.

The Auburn Hills police department is also reviewing tapes of the game. At least one individual has been brought in for questioning in connection to his participation. It is unknown at this time whether any charges have been made against this individual.

The person who threw the cup of beer at Artest was not right to do this, and Artest should not have been subjected to this. However, Artest should have kept his composure together enough to stay out of the crowd.

On a side note, upon hearing this, I can?t help but to think back to the infamous story about Ty Cobb, in his playing days with the Tigers. Throughout the entire game, Cobb had been heckled by a fan of the opposing team. Finally, Cobb had taken enough, and went into the crowd to confront the fan. Upon discovering that the heckler was an amputee, Cobb did not back off, but instead started beating the fan with his own wooden leg.

Somehow, I don?t think encountering a prosthetic limb would have slowed Artest down, either.

A 73-game suspension for Artest may seem excessive at first glance: it is the most severe suspension handed down from the league for an incident not involving the league?s drug policy. In 1974, Kermit Washington punched Rudy Tomjonovich hard enough to shatter his jaw and fracture his skull. Spinal fluid was leaking out of Tomjonovich?s nose. Washington received a 60-day (26 game) suspension for the action. Latrell Sprewell was suspended 68 games for choking coach P.J. Carlissemo during a practice.

However, after more thought, Artest deserves this suspension. By carrying this altercation into the crowd, Artest has crossed the barrier between sports and real-life action. By entering the crowd, Artest not only put himself and his teammates into danger, he endangered the fans at the game. By entering the crowd, Artest has hurt the image of the team, and that of the league as a whole. By punching at a fan, it is the NBA that has gotten a black eye.

A week before the incident, Artest had asked the Pacers for time off to work on his music career. This should have been a sign to the Pacers organization that his heart was not into the game. During the off-season, he had made comments about retiring after this season. This should have been another warning sign. No one should be surprised by his actions to get suspended. However, by inciting this situation, Artest may have brought down the entire Pacers team, with Jackson also receiving a 30-game suspension, and O?Neal will sit for 25 games.

With the core of the Pacers missing for so long, it will be very difficult for the team to re-group in time to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Artest was looking for a way to get away from basketball. David Stern has obliged him by telling him to take a year to cool off. It?s going to take Stern at least that long to find a way to re-build the image of the league.

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

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