NBA AM: Artest Headed To Britain
There’s no denying Los Angeles Lakers small forward Ron Artest is one of the most unpredictable players to ever step foot in the NBA, but no one can lay a claim the mercurial veteran isn’t passionate about the game of basketball.
While speaking to the Los Angeles Times in an exclusive phone interview Thursday night, Artest confirmed the rampant speculation he was joining the Cheshire Jets of the unheralded British Basketball League (BBL).
“I’m definitely going to play for the Jets,” Artest said in the interview. “I’m definitely going to play for the Jets … I can’t play for the Lakers because there’s a lockout. There’s no obligation to play anywhere, but you can play professional ball. You can play professional ball overseas so I’m going to play in the U.K.”
Artest, who has three years and $21 million remaining on his current deal with the Lakers, is reportedly going to make only $1,500 to $2,500 per month for the financially strapped Jets. But for Artest the move isn’t about money; it’s about enjoying the game of basketball and the opportunity to further expand his celebrity profile off the floor.
“If people want to play the best defensive player of the game, come to the U.K. I’m going to be right there,” Artest answered. “I’m not chasing anybody. If teams want to play one of the best defenders in the history of the NBA on the wing, come to the U.K. I’ll be right there. I’m going to be right there. I’m not going to other countries. I’m from New York City. I play in L.A. U.K is a big country. I’m going to fit right in. I’m going to play hard. If people want to play against Ron Artest, play basketball and not chase the money and play passionate basketball against Ron Artest, come to the U.K. I’m going to be there and we’re going to be going hard.”
One of the opportunities reportedly extended to Artest from the Jets, in lieu of a lucrative financial offer, was the chance to advance his music career and possibly secure a role on a British Soap Opera.
“I went on Jimmy Kimmel in my underwear, so, of course I would do a soap opera,” Artest said. “When they told me I had the opportunity and asked if I wanted to do a soap opera, I said, ‘Of course, man.’ I’m not going to run away. When I was a kid, I wanted to be on TV. Why would I run away from being on TV?”
The 31-year-old former All-Star is seemingly on the decline at least from a production standpoint finishing last season with the worst statistical averages of his career in points, rebounds, assists and field-goal percentage.
The twelve-year veteran is expected to arrive in Britain on August 18th to attend promotional gatherings and meet with team officials of the Jets to finalize contract details.
The British Basketball League runs from September 30th through April 22nd.
Stern Remains Confident Regarding 2012 Season: Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has remained extremely consistent in his messaging that league owners and players are more than $800 million apart in reaching a new collective bargaining agreement and stated last week the entire 2012 season could be lost.
However, NBA commissioner David Stern is singing an entirely different tune.
The longtime league executive is actually confident of both sides agreeing to a deal despite the lack of apparent progress since the lockout began on July 1.
“I would say that we have very smart players who recognize that this system is very good to them,” Stern told the Boston Globe. “You’ve got 13 players on a roster averaging $5 million apiece, that’s $65 million and what the owners have said is, ‘we’re going to try very hard as we reset this thing to keep you as close to that number as we can.’
The owners want to drastically rollback players salaries at the tune of close to $900 million per season.
The players have counter offered for the figure to be in the $100 million per year neighborhood.
While massive player salaries get the most ink as a cause of the league’s alleged deteriorating financial situation, many NBA insiders point to widespread excessive spending ranging from last minute first class airfare, luxury hotels and $1,000 per night dinners routinely expensed by team officials throughout the season as an underreported issue that must be addressed.
But when it comes to labor disputes between employees and owners, you must remember that the side signing the checks is typically in a much stronger leveraged position to extend the negotiations.
Stern alluded to this point, referencing the league’s veterans who are on the downside of their respective careers and in position to potentially secure one more lucrative multi-year, multi-million dollar deal before their skills completely erode.
“I expect that we’ll make a deal because the alternative is very destructive,” Stern said. “It’s destructive of $2 billion worth of player salaries and it’s destructive most important to our fans of the game. And if it spirals badly everyone gets hurt. But in some ways I worry because the players have more to lose, especially those in the later stages of their career. So we’re going to do everything we can when the rhetoric slows down to get this thing back on track.”
One item working in the owners’ favor is the recent labor deal struck in the National Football League.
“The NFL, which is usually profitable as opposed to the NBA, which isn’t, got the double-digit [revenue] reductions from their players,” Stern said. “Our players will understand that when the rhetoric stops and they will understand that the owners are trying to do the right thing and our players always try to do the right thing.”
Although both sides remain far apart, Stern believes a deal will eventually be struck even if it doesn’t come with an abundance of media hoopla.
“They’ll be smaller meetings, conversations, you don’t need these great media events to have dialogue,” Stern said. “Eventually we’ll get it done. “I will not set a deadline on Aug. 11.”
Other League Notes
- Miami HEAT star forward LeBron James told reporters in Taiwan he believes there will be a season in 2012. “Right now I am working toward the NBA season, I believe there will be a season, and hopefully both sides can come together.”
- Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2011 member Chris Mullin believes teammates Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway should also have their numbers retired in Golden State together. The trio was known as Run TMC. “Tim had the ball, Mitch had the talent, and it was the perfect balance. It was only (a couple of) years, but it seemed longer. Had a long-lasting feel to it.” On whether the trio jersey numbers being retired together: “I would like that,” Mullin said. “I think the fans would like it, too. … To me, it doesn’t always have to be about one person. I know I’d feel more comfortable. That would feel natural to me.”
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