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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Portrait of Artest as a Young Man

SportsProf always wanted to see this headline, but doubted that the NY papers would have used it, as it was probably too highbrow for the Daily News or Post and probably wouldn't have made its way into the Times. (For those of you with a short memory, Ron Artest is an NYC native who played his college ball at St. John's). In any event, all during the year the talk was how Artest had calmed down, had cut down on the technical fouls, had increased his scoring average, and had become the premier "shutdown" defensive player in the league. Last year he had 14 technical fouls, this year five, and he was named the NBA's defensive player of the year (where he beat out, among others, Kobe Bryant and Ben Wallace).

So what happened? At a pivotal moment in Game 7 against the Pistons last night, after getting hit below the belt by Rip Hamilton, who was backing in on him at the time, Artest threw up a forearm to Hamilton's face in a subsequent sequence -- with about 4 minutes to go -- in plain view for all to see. In a game that ended with a ridiculously low score of 69-65, that forearm, and the foul shots that went with it, turned into a four-point play for Detroit and helped the Pistons win the Eastern Conference.

Defensive Player of the Year? Perhaps. Smart Team Defensive Player of the Year During Crunch Time in the Conference Finals? Not a chance.

It's amazing how one act can undo a solid body of work, but it will be the forearm in the playoffs that will linger in people's memories -- at least until next season.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a big Artest fan, but my viewing of that play and the subsequent replays is that Rip did a nice acting job, and the forearm was never extended to deliver a blow, but was held up in a semi-protective mode. The Pacers lost that uglyball series because the team wasn't healthy enough -- mainly Jermaine and Jamal.

4:47 PM  

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