INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana forward Ron Artest challenged Bruce
Bowen to a game of one-on-one for the NBA Defensive Player of the
Year award Tuesday, one day after Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
criticized Artest and Pacers coach Rick Carlisle.
"Tell his coach, 'Let's play one-on-one for the award,"'
Artest said after practice. "I'll give it to him if he can beat
Popovich appeared Monday on a San Antonio radio station and said
Bowen was more deserving of the award, which Artest won by a wide
margin. Bowen finished fourth in the voting.
"Bruce guards the best player on the other team almost every
single night," Popovich said. "Artest doesn't do that. Artest
just looks the part. He looks like a big, tough guy. He whacks and
gets knocked out of the game once in a while."
Popovich also criticized Carlisle for openly campaigning for his
player. Carlisle called voting members of the media to lobby for
his player and had two assistants break down film of Artest to come
up with supporting statistics.
Carlisle said the project showed that Artest held opponents to
an average of 9.4 shots and 8.1 points a game when he was matched
up one-on-one. The NBA used those numbers when announcing Artest
"What a bunch of baloney," Popovich said. "Totally
unsubstantiated stats put out by Indiana. The media bought it and
then the NBA printed those stats. I am amazed by that.
"We'll never do that," Popovich said of the campaign. "It's
not our style. It makes no sense. And we'll certainly not throw out
stats that are totally unsubstantiated. There's no way to
substantiate them. It's like grabbing four guys off the street and
putting them in a film room and saying to come up with some stats
on this guy. It's just a joke and it really angered me when I saw
that the NBA actually printed those stats when they announced the
media's choice of Defensive Player of the Year as if they were real
stats. There is no such stat."
The comments were posted on a San Antonio television station's
Web site and didn't take long to find their way to Indiana, where
the Pacers are awaiting the outcome of the Miami-New Orleans series
after their four-game sweep of the Boston Celtics in the first
Artest said he wished Popovich would have spoken to him directly
rather than commenting through the media.
"It's not hard to get in touch with me," Artest said. "All
you have to do is call the Pacers office and ask for my phone
number. You can speak to me instead of going to the papers. He's
taken a lot of positives away from it. Talk to the Pacers and call
me. Let me know I didn't deserve it so I don't have to hear it from
Carlisle said he thought Popovich never would have made the
remarks had he known they would make their way on to the Internet.
"I understand where Pop's coming from," Carlisle said. "He
has a strong belief in his player and obviously I have a strong
belief in mine."
As for his campaigning, Carlisle pointed to the NBA
All-Defensive team announced on Monday. Coaches vote for the teams,
not the media, and Artest's 26 First-Team votes were more than any
other player. Bowen was also named to the First Team, receiving 18
"The one thing I will agree with Pop on is that the coaches'
vote is the most important," Carlisle said. "In the coaches'
vote, Ron was clearly the highest vote-getter. It really should
make any arguments moot on who the best defensive player was."