EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Anyone expecting a kinder, gentler
Ron Artest on the court this season is likely to come away
"I'm going to continue playing hard and out of control, like a
wild animal that needs to be caged in," Artest said Tuesday night
before the Indiana Pacers faced the New Jersey Nets in the
preseason opener for both teams. "I'll let the referees handle
Artest had eight points, three rebounds and three fouls in 12
minutes in the Nets' 105-103 victory.
Artest was greeted by a smattering of boos from the small crowd
at Continental Airlines Arena, and his first points, on an 18-foot
jumper a few minutes into the game brought the same response.
The game was Artest's first NBA action since a melee near the
end of a game against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace at Auburn
Hills last Nov. 19 led to one of the worst brawls in American
For his part in the altercation, Artest was given a 73-game
suspension by the NBA and teammates Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen
Jackson and Anthony Johnson were given shorter suspensions. Those
four and Indiana's David Harrison were sentenced this fall in
Michigan to a year's probation plus community service.
Television replays again and again showed Artest running into
the stands and attacking a Pistons fan after he was hit with a cup
of beer. When asked Tuesday if he could envision a similar incident
occurring again, Artest was guardedly contrite.
"I don't think anybody's going to throw anything at me, and I
don't see me reacting how I reacted," he said.
A tough defender who was the NBA's defensive player of the year
in 2004 but also developed a reputation as a loose cannon, Artest
played in the NBA's summer league and said he gained about 10
pounds and is up to 260.
"I wish I was 280," he said Tuesday.
Faced with a phalanx of reporters in the Pacers' locker room
before the game, Artest answered questions patiently and seemed
resigned to facing similar treatment as he goes around the league.
"It's cool," he said. "Things happen in life and you move on.
That's the way you have to go about it. It'll be fun playing.
Playing with your teammates, playing against the other All-Stars,
that's going to be fun. I'm ready to go."