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News » ARTEST WANTS TO USE HIS PAST TO AID KIDS


ARTEST WANTS TO USE HIS PAST TO AID KIDS


ARTEST WANTS TO USE HIS PAST TO AID KIDS LOS ANGELES - Ron Artest, role model?

That's what the controversial Lakers forward insists he aspires to be.

Amid backlash from Wednesday's revelation that he drank cognac at halftime of games while playing for the Chicago Bulls, Artest clarified that he shared that story in hopes that it would help at-risk youths dealing with similar issues.

He said on Thursday that he's interested in starting a program in Los Angeles in which he'd caution kids about the pratfalls of fame and fortune and how it can push people in the wrong direction.

"The whole purpose of the testimony was to share problematic times with the youth," Artest said. "There are a lot of kids out there right now that have gone through the same things I've gone through and would be able to relate."

More than a day had passed since The Sporting News released excerpts of an article about Artest to be published in Monday's issue of the magazine, yet the story dominated conversation at Thursday's Lakers practice.

Kobe Bryant and Coach Phil Jackson each received twice as many questions about Artest as they did about tonight's matchup with Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat, the first above-.500 opponent the Lakers will face after four consecutive wins over struggling teams.

Neither Bryant nor Jackson showed even a hint of concern about Artest, who they said has been a model teammate since signing with the Lakers in July.

Bryant said, "He ain't doing that (stuff) here. It's nothing to us."

Jackson questioned whether Artest might have embellished a little bit in his quest for the spotlight.

"I just don't believe that at all," Jackson said. "I don't believe a player could get away with that kind of thing in the NBA. Someone's going to see you. There's going to be alcohol on your breath. It's just not going to happen on a day-to-day basis. I know Ron said those things and I have to respect that he's speaking the truth, but I still don't know how far that went and if that was a once or twice occurrence."

The Lakers have coveted Artest for years despite a troubled past dotted with suspensions, legal trouble and a leading role in perhaps the most infamous brawl in Basketball history. Jackson acknowledged he was unaware that Artest drank during games as a member of the Bulls from 1999 to 2002, but he said the Lakers had done a thorough background check before signing him to a five-year, $35 million deal.

"We have a lot of people who know Ron and know his history and have been around him," Jackson said. "We're a pretty sharing community here in the NBA, and we have pretty in-depth information on who people are."

Artest admitted growing up in the hardscrabble Queensbridge Projects of New York made adjusting to the NBA lifestyle difficult for him at first. He recalled "street ball" games as kid when he'd go get water or Gatorade during a break, and other players would guzzle 40-ounce bottles of Old English malt liquor to re-energize.

Now 30 years old, Artest insists he's not the same person as the selfish young pro who hid bottles of cognac in his locker in Chicago or once asked the Indiana Pacers for time off during the season to promote his rap album. He revealed this season that he has been seeing a sports psychologist for more than a year to help him cope with his well-chronicled anger issues, set aside his ego and become a better teammate.

"I was slowly cleansing myself in Sacramento," Artest said. "I was 98 percent cleansed in Houston."

At the end of Thursday's meandering but revealing interview, Artest got up from his seat and delivered one final thought.

"Now somebody can write a book," he said, smiling. "And I want a cut."

Reach Jeff Eisenberg at 951-368-9357 or jeisenberg@PE.com


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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 5, 2009

 

 
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