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[New York Times] Rockets' New Glare

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Clutch, Oct 25, 2008.

  1. Clutch

    Clutch Administrator
    Staff Member

    Feb 13, 1999
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    Rockets' New Glare
    Published: October 25, 2008

    HOUSTON — In nine turbulent seasons of professional basketball, Ron Artest has exhausted the dark corners of the emotional spectrum. He has inspired fear, anger, revulsion, anxiety and, in his worst moment, malice. The feelings in southeast Texas right now are considerably warmer and fuzzier.

    Houston Rockets fans have flocked to Artest in a virtual group hug. Daryl Morey, the Rockets' bookish general manager, is nearly giddy over his arrival. And Tracy McGrady, the star guard with the tear-stained playoff résumé, was struck with the most unlikely emotion of all.

    "It was a sense of relief," he said of the August trade for Artest.

    If the pairing of "relief" and "Artest" in the same sentence is jarring, then consider an even more mind-blowing construction: Artest as the missing piece to an N.B.A. championship.

    As the Boston Celtics open their first title defense in 22 years and the Los Angeles Lakers renew their drive to unseat them, the N.B.A.'s most compelling drama will unfold in Houston, where the Rockets promise to be explosive and entertaining, one way or another.

    With Artest, an elite defender and gifted scorer, joining the All-Stars McGrady and Yao Ming, the Rockets have a talented threesome to rival the Lakers' (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom), the San Antonio Spurs' (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginóbili, Tony Parker) and perhaps even the Celtics' (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen).

    Oddsmakers list the Rockets as an 8-to-1 shot to win the title, putting them in the same class as the Spurs and the Detroit Pistons. In the N.B.A.'s annual survey of general managers, the Rockets got as many votes as the Spurs to win the championship. Jeff Van Gundy, the ESPN analyst and former Houston coach, called the Rockets and the Lakers "the two most talented teams in the Western Conference, by far."

    The Rockets are too respectful of the established powers to make bold predictions. But when Morey acquired Artest from Sacramento — for the veteran Bobby Jackson and the rookie Donte Greene — the goal was clear. He expects the Rockets, who have not won a playoff series since 1997, to contend immediately.

    "I think that's fair," said Morey, using more caution in his rhetoric than in his deal-making. "We're clearly making the moves hoping that's the case."

    As N.B.A. deals go, it was the ultimate high-risk, high-reward gambit. Artest is an elite two-way player, capable of scoring in bunches and locking down All-Stars. He is also capable of destroying his team.

    Four years ago, while playing for the Indiana Pacers, Artest sparked the worst player-fan brawl in league history at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich. Artest was suspended for 73 games and the Pacers, who had been contenders in the East, fell into disarray. They traded Artest to Sacramento 14 months later.

    There have been other smaller incidents — a smashed TV camera, a domestic abuse charge, dozens of technical fouls, wild comments to the news media — but it is the brawl that forever stains Artest's reputation.

    Although he avoided any serious on-court problems in two and a half seasons with the Kings, Artest left Sacramento amid rumblings that he had worn out coaches and teammates with his emotional volatility. Artest has a low tolerance for players he deems to be lazy or lacking talent. He was known to act up in the locker room even after preseason games.

    The trade was viewed in Sacramento as addition by subtraction — an interpretation supported by the modest package the Kings received in return.

    "He's just an emotional guy," said Kings center Brad Miller, who was also Artest's teammate in Chicago and Indiana. "That's his strong point and sometimes the weakness. But it's a fine balance."

    If any team can handle the entire Artest spectrum, it is the Rockets. They are coached by Rick Adelman, a steady, underrated manager of outsize personalities. Artest was devastated when the Kings fired Adelman in 2006, and thrilled to be reunited with him in Texas.

    "One of the best coaches I ever played for," said Artest, who reportedly had little regard for the two rookie coaches who followed Adelman in Sacramento, Eric Musselman and Reggie Theus.

    With the rebuilding Kings, Artest was forced to carry a heavy load at both ends of the court. But he was ill suited as the face of a franchise.

    If the oft-injured Yao and McGrady can stay healthy, they will provide Artest cover, and keep his ego in check. It mirrors the role Artest played during his early years with Indiana, supporting Reggie Miller and Jermaine O'Neal. "Ronnie's best years with us were when he was the third guy," said Donnie Walsh, the former Pacers president, who now runs the Knicks.

    Although Artest wrecked the team he built, Walsh still speaks of him fondly, and even roots for him.

    "I would love to see him in a position publicly where the good side of him could be seen," Walsh said. "Because it hasn't been seen in a long time. And there's a great side to Ron."

    The Rockets are also providing Artest with a support system. They recently hired Shawn Respert, a former N.B.A. player, as director of player programs. Artest is among his chief responsibilities.

    "He's a volatile guy," Morey said, "but we feel like we've got as much lined up to mitigate it as any team."

    There is one more mitigating factor: Artest is in the final year of his contract and thus should be on his best behavior. If the Rockets crash and burn, they can simply let him walk next summer.

    Indeed, Rockets officials insist that the greatest risk associated with the trade was not in acquiring Artest, but in surrendering Greene, a raw, gifted forward who was taken with the 28th pick in the June draft.

    "I don't think it's as big a risk as everybody thinks it is," the Rockets' owner, Les Alexander, said, referring to Artest. "I thought Artest was an All-Star-caliber player and that he was now 29, and people mature. They come into the league and after awhile, they realize the one thing they really want out of basketball the most is to win a championship."

    Artest has said as much in his conversations with Rockets officials and teammates. He was a model citizen in the preseason, and almost always the last one off the court at practice. He has volunteered to come off the bench when Shane Battier, the incumbent small forward, returns from a foot injury. Significantly, Artest has also become close to Battier, who is among the N.B.A.'s most respected players.

    And Artest has tried hard to blend in. He has turned down requests for extensive off-court interviews. When The Houston Chronicle proposed an article on the new Big Three (the Rockets' best since Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley), Artest declined.

    None of this — and not even a championship — may change the negative images of Artest, and he said he does not expect it to. But Artest said he had evolved since his impetuous early years with the Pacers.

    "I was young, I was too immature just to put importance on winning the championship when I was back in Indiana," he said. "I didn't know how important it was to me. I had too many other selfish, individual things going through my mind. And I didn't put no importance on winning the championship. And I have a second shot at it."
  2. zforrest

    zforrest Member

    Jun 28, 2007
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    At first, I was surprised to see somebody post a NY Times article. Then I realized that anything is better than FOX Sports or ESPN.

    Good find!
  3. theREALDEALkid

    Jan 5, 2008
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    Good Read, i don't think Artest will cause any problems...idc if he gets a few techs here and there, i like tht, it shows he's not afraid to back down, but right now his head is in the right place, and i support him
  4. Phil

    Phil Contributing Member

    Oct 12, 2005
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    good to see that the NYT is giving us the kind of respect we deserve, unlike the rest of the national media. they really need to give up the negative artest bias and see this team for what it's for - a top 2-3 team in the entire league, not a top 4 team in the west...
  5. Commodore

    Commodore Contributing Member

    Dec 15, 2007
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    good article, nothing new really but always interesting to see a take from an unusual source, not much to disagree with really
  6. RocketsMac

    RocketsMac Member

    Apr 1, 2006
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    great article..

    I noticed the italics and i couldn't help but think: is it possible that Clutch is Tmac&Yao=Rings? :D
  7. LoneStarRebel

    LoneStarRebel Member

    Oct 20, 2008
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    Great article.

    I'm so pumped for the season to start.

    Finals bound, baby!!!

    "Let's Get it!!!" [/Jeezy]
  8. moestavern19

    moestavern19 Member

    Dec 8, 1999
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    Good article, but the one thing I disagree with is the "high risk, high reward" logic.

    The cost of not making this deal is to stay a step behind The Lakers, Hornets etc and hope Donte Greene turns into a good player within a 2 year time frame so he can help out McGrady and Yao and you rely on the continued development of Scola, Landry and Brooks to help you take the next step.

    The cost of making the deal is you give up a 1st round pick (likely a late rounder, the same kind Morey has acquired for beans) and Donte Greene but you add a guy who IMMEDIATELY makes you contender worthy. You have the one coach in the NBA that knows how to keep him under control (and more importantly how to utilize him). And you take an incredible amount of offensive pressure off McGrady and Yao.

    In the unlikely scenario that he destroys team chemistry and completely loses his mind, he's a free agent and you decide to part ways.

    Pretty minimal risk, incredible reward if you ask me.
  9. tiger0330

    tiger0330 Contributing Member

    Mar 2, 2003
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    NY Times article on Artest/Rockets

    Seldom does the Times write articles on the Rockets, so we really must be the real deal. Writer says Artest and Battier have become friends and Rox have hired Shawn Respert to help Artest with his adjustment.
  10. J.Will.Xu

    J.Will.Xu Member

    Aug 21, 2008
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    hope everything the Rox had done will turn into A championship this year!

    stay healthy Tmac and Yao!!Dear Lord..Please i beg of you let'em stay healthy for the entire season :D
  11. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

    Oct 27, 1999
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    Respect worked at Rice for awhile. I'm not sure how many people know this, but he had stomach cancer in the NBA never told anyone until 2005, because he didn't want anyone to know. Here's an article about it:

  12. LonghornFan

    LonghornFan Contributing Member

    Sep 16, 2002
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    Thanks for that, HP. Very humbling.
  13. Dave_78

    Dave_78 Member

    Oct 12, 2006
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    I disagree with the part about it being "high risk"
  14. theogcasey

    theogcasey Contributing Member

    Mar 13, 2008
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    What kind of parallel universe have I just entered... The NY Times? Really?
  15. fitchjs

    fitchjs Member

    Sep 7, 2002
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    Thank you Clutch and Heypartner.

    This is the best Thread I have read in all the years on this sight....very classy.

    Thank you again.
  16. worzel gummidge

    Sep 30, 2008
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  17. v_sunny

    v_sunny Member

    Oct 16, 2008
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    Jeff Van Gundy, the ESPN analyst and former Houston coach, called the Rockets and the Lakers "the two most talented teams in the Western Conference, by far." :)
  18. EGYPT

    EGYPT Member

    Nov 16, 2006
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    Boy I would love to have him do one of those to TMac, maybe just maybe he puts some fire under his pants.
  19. shakegod

    shakegod Rookie

    Oct 21, 2008
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    Artest is in the final year of his contract and thus should be on his best behavior,don't be too worry.So far Houston had organize ATM(Artest & Tracy & Yao),trust Rockets go further.Go go go :D
  20. J-Wolf

    J-Wolf Member

    Mar 28, 2006
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    A great read! Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Artest is an emotional guy. I do hope he can bring toughness to the two soft-spoken stars

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