Goodbye to an anti-legend

Here’s my train of thought over the last couple days regarding this new Ron Artest trade:

“Oh man, Artest is finally gone? Awesome… wait… for PEJA Stojakovic? Are you kidding? SUPER Awesome!”

Then, minutes later…

“You’ve got to be kidding me! Artest doesn’t want to go to Sacto, so he’s nixed the trade? Where does he get the power to do something like that! Artest, I HATE YOU!!” (beginning to resign self to the idea of an Olowokandi trade)

Later that night…

The trade is on again? I’m not holding my breath, I’ll tell you that for sure. I’ve been burned on this before. I guess it would be nice… wait… if this trade were for real, then what’s wrong with Peja? Hmm, now I’m scared.”

And finally, this morning…

(hums to self) “Peja Stojakovic: Indiana Pacer. I like the sound of that.”

Yes, the trade went through. Seriously, this time. After a day and a half of “on again off again” trade talks, a closed door meeting between Pacers owner Donnie Walsh and Ron Artest was issued from management (which I suspect went something like this):

RA: I don’t want to go to Sacramento.

DW: Um, you do realize that by refusing to go to the Kings, you’ve just made yourself look like a primadonna, created an even bigger stigma (if that’s even possible) around your personality, and forced every other team that was at one point considering a trade with us to rethink their strategy and ask for more in return. Thanks, Ron. Now, you’re going to go to Sacramento, and you’re going to have a change of heart and enjoy yourself, or I’m going to turn this trade around and send you to the Rockford Lightning in return for Roger Powell.

RA: Oh. I love Sacramento

Damn right you do, Ron. And we love Peja.

Now, I know there are some pros and cons to this deal. Indiana is getting an older player, a player that’s been injured off and on for the past few seasons, is shooting worse than he ever has in his career, and is a unrestricted free agent that will ask for the highest possible amount at the end of this year. Additionally, Indiana loses one of, if not the, best defensive player in the game, a shooter that is able to create for himself and score from wherever (as opposed to the Reggie Miller-esque outside-only threat that Peja brings) and a man that was the emotional leader for a team that feeds off of a passion for the game.

Still, it wasn’t that long ago that Peja was considered an MVP candidate. It wasn’t that long ago that the Pacers won a lot of games by having a great inside forward/center and a great outside threat. It wasn’t that long ago that everyone was talking about O’Neal for Peja, or a combo of Artest and filler for Peja, and people agreed that the Pacers would have been getting the best of the deal.

Of course, it also wasn’t that long ago that Artest jumped into the stands and sparked The Malice at the Palace. It wasn’t that long ago that he wanted time off to promote an album – in the middle of a season. It wasn’t that long ago that he decided, inexplicably, that he wanted to be the top option on his team and decided he wanted out of Indiana, a team with championship hopes.

Sure, Stojakovic is not the player he was a few years ago. But this is a perfect chance for the Pacers to see what they’re getting: they’ve got the rest of the year to fit Peja into the system, and then they’ve got the option to sign and trade (because a lot of teams will want him for his shooting touch alone) or, if he lives up to his former self, they can re-sign him now that they have the rights to offer him the biggest contract regardless of cap room.

It’s win-win. The Pacers get rid of a problem, and they get a much-needed shooter. The Kings get the problem, but they’ve had problems in the past and they do a good job in breaking them. This current Sacramento Kings team is a far cry from the team that was one quarter from the NBA Finals a few years ago – this team is now hard-nosed and defensive instead of run-and-gun. Both teams got pieces that they need, and the Pacers are rid of the man that cost Reggie Miller one final chance at the NBA Finals, a deed that I’ve never forgiven Artest for.

If only this trade would have happened before our trip to Minneapolis to see the Pacers at the Target Center. They might have actually pulled off a win.

Good luck to the Kings. They’ll need it.

This was lovingly handwritten on January 26th, 2006