...the small forward informed the team approximately 30 minutes before tipoff that he would not be able to play. The injury cited was sore knees, a variation from the back injury that plagued Artest before and a mysterious development. To this point, there had been no word of a knee problem for Artest.
TNT's Craig Sager said in the postgame news conference that he asked the Kings' training staff before the game about Artest's knees, and was told they were not aware of knee problems and that Artest had not complained about them.
"Again, I think you've got to ask Ron and the medical people," Musselman said. "I don't know what else to say."
Artest did, in fact, address the media afterward, a rare occurrence for someone who didn't play because of injury. And before the pack of reporters got to him, he was asked if the knees truly were bothering him.
"Whatever they told you, that's what it is," he said. Once the masses arrived, he proceeded to give a detailed account of soreness that he said is in both knees and has "gone on a couple weeks now." Artest said he had "complained in practice a couple of times about my knees being sore."
Artest did not watch any of the game from the floor, and he said he was in the training room, icing his knees and "laying on the couch." Earlier in the day, he was at the morning shootaround, even taking shots after practice. He shot before the game, too, looking like his normal self before informing Musselman that he could not play. Because the word came so late, Musselman did not have time to activate reserve big man Maurice Taylor.
A week ago, I called Ron Artest the most valuable King. And the numbers don't lie - his presence makes everyone better.
But he is killing this team.
He's begging to get Mike Bibby traded, or to get traded himself. His actions speak louder than any demands could. He is fighting a battle in the shadows, trying to take this for his own. The "I guess I have to guard the point guard, too" comment. The play at the end of the Utah game. Taking himself out of the lineup at the last minute last night. It's all a push for power, whether Ron-Ron is doing it consciously or not. It's his way to both show the powers that he is the most important piece and that he is in control.
And it's working.
It's a shame. That Kings supposed to be having a rebirth--turning over a new leaf. But it sure feels like it's going to get worse before it gets better. And here's the funny thing: everyone that I have talked to likes Eric Musselman, but he's 2 for 2 on rapid implosions after he takes over an NBA team. I wonder what that's about. I'm not blaming him for one second. Maybe it's just that NBA players prefer to listen to legends of the game like Phil Jackson or Pat Riley. I don't know. But it doesn't seem to be working.