Artest Not Enough As Celtics Beat Kings

Friday, January 27th 2006, 9:50 pm
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ Ron Artest wants people to remember some of the good things he did in Indiana, too.

The former Pacers troublemaker started for Sacramento against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, two days after he was traded to the Kings for Peja Stojakovic. Artest scored seven of the Kings' first 15 points and finished with 15, but Boston won 84-74.

``I'm going to play hard. That's all I can do,'' he said before the game. ``Things that were distractions to my team in the past _ I've learned from my mistakes, and I look forward to those things not happening.''

Artest pronounced himself ready to play despite sitting out since mid-December, when he was deactivated in response to a trade request. He's had plenty of experience trying to stay in shape, having missed 73 games plus the playoffs last year _ the longest suspension in NBA history _ for a fight in the Detroit stands.

``Last year, of course, it was unpaid,'' he said. ``This year it was paid. So it feels a little better.''

There were also the times he kicked a ball into the stands, broke a TV camera by throwing it to the ground and arguing with Miami Heat coach Pat Riley during a game. But the top item in any Artest retrospective will always be Nov. 19, 2004, when he was a big part of one of the ugliest brawls in NBA history.

``I think I did a lot of good things in Indiana also that's probably been overshadowed,'' Artest said. ``I think those will be in my memories more than the other stuff.''

But he also acknowledged: ``I did a lot of things (in Indiana) that were distractions to the team, so maybe it's better if I go,'' he said, adding that his kids are Pacers fans and they will probably keep their house in Indiana. ``I love Indiana and my family loves Indiana.''

Wearing a tie under a gray coat with a ``Tru Warier Records'' logo, Artest said he hoped for a fresh start with his new team, and the Kings said they were ready to give it to him.

``It's been a little bit of a circus, but I think everybody is happy to have him. At the same time, we're sad to see Peja go,'' Kings forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim said. ``You just want the guy to want to be here, to want to play hard and win. He hasn't showed us anything other than that.''

One of the league's best defenders but also one of its most volatile personalities, Artest was an All-Star and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2003-04. He was also a key to the Pacers' offense, averaging 24.6 points in the seven games he played last season before the suspension, and 19.4 in 16 games this season before he was deactivated.

But he will be remembered by others for the problems he caused, virtually destroying the Pacers' 2004-05 season when he was banned for the Detroit fight. In December, he stunned teammates and Pacers officials who supported him after the brawl by requesting a trade.

When Indiana finally appeared to have a deal with Sacramento on Tuesday, Artest balked at playing for the Kings. He relented after a meeting with Pacers and Kings officials.

``I wanted to give them a chance to meet some people, let them get a chance to know me and like me,'' he said. ``Donnie Walsh made a good decision. I think it's going to work out for everybody.''

In the meeting with Pacers executives, ``I apologized for how I did things,'' Artest said.

Told that Larry Bird felt betrayed, Artest said, ``I understand his feelings. I respect his opinion.''

As soon as he blessed the deal, Artest went to New York, where the Kings played the Knicks on Wednesday, so he could travel to Boston with the team.

``I flew with them to be with them as soon as possible,'' he said. ``It was a good feeling. New teammates _ they showed a lot of love.''

Stojakovic has averaged 18.5 points during his career and has been selected to three All-Star teams. But this season has been the Serbian's worst, with a bad back that has limited him to an average of 16.5 points in 31 games.

The Kings are in last place in the Pacific Division, entering Friday night's game with a record of 18-24.

``Our team hasn't performed the way it should,'' co-owner Joe Maloof said. ``We needed to do something. I think the fans in Sacramento were ready for a change no matter what.''