- The Washington Times - Friday, December 23, 2005

The number of the desperate, curious and misguided said to be interested in acquiring the at-risk services of Ron Artest has grown to a colossal number following the preliminary inquiry of the director of psychology at St. Elizabeths.

Artest is the social misfit who has come to be the Mike Tyson of the NBA.

Artest comes with only one question, and it is not: Is he ready to play tonight? Instead, it is: Has he taken his medication today?

The shouters of ESPN, the ones who can be muted and otherwise, believe in the power of Artest but question the coping mechanisms of those sentenced to be in the same locker room with him.

He is the crazy uncle in the family best left in the attic. He is a public disturbance with a record company to promote and a past that cannot be escaped.

He was the leading principal in the NBA’s first steel-match event in Auburn Hills, Mich., last season. He was the one with the steam coming out of his ears and the eyes rolled up into the back of his head.

Artest appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with Larry Bird going into the NBA season, the only surprise being that Bird was not wearing a mouthpiece, head gear and body armor.

Wherever Artest ends up, the team is obligated to have a straitjacket on hand and a slew of medical practitioners armed with long hypodermic needles.

Artest is as real as Dennis Rodman was contrived.

Rodman was a saccharin nut who merely wanted to transfer his antics to the cheap, gaudy wing of the entertainment culture. But let’s be honest: Rodman is no Bobby Brown.

Artest is so real that his teammates in Indianapolis have disowned him.

Ernie Grunfeld has not revealed if he is one of the NBA gurus looking to become the new best friend of Donnie Walsh. The thought of Artest on Fun Street is amusing, given the easygoing nature of the team.

The last time the Wizards were involved in a scrape, in a preseason game involving the Bulls in 2004, Brendan Haywood defended himself against Antonio Davis by backing up from one end of the court to the other.

If someone had put a stopwatch on Haywood, he undoubtedly would have set the world record in the 94-foot backpedaling event.

The locker room of the Wizards is as G-rated as locker rooms go in the NBA. Artest would stick out among the Wizards like a mangy, snarling mutt. His dressing stall would be the one with the imaginary shield around it.

To the notion of Artest, the Wizards have been unanimous in their disapproval.

You can judge the sincerity of their responses by their wide eyes, labored breaths and deep gulps.

Artest has that ogre-like quality to him. He is almost mythical, as he takes to living on the corner of fact and fiction.

True or false: He has a pet alligator in his bathtub at home. He was one of the passengers in the white Ford Bronco that led police on a low-speed freeway chase in Los Angeles. He once threw a fan through a plate-glass window.

Artest has rescinded his request to be traded, if it matters.

The sentiment clearly was mutual the moment he voiced the benefit of a new venue.

Not that a new venue can fix what ails Artest.

That is all in his head, rarely a coherent place.

There is no NBA city where Artest can hide from his past unless David Stern orders the Grizzlies to return to Vancouver.

Sympathy goes to the team president, coaching staff and players who end up on the wild side with Artest.

The long-shot hope of the interested parties is that Artest eventually will find a way to curb his baser instincts, as Rasheed Wallace has done to a point with the Pistons.

That is the thought process, strained as it might be.



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