Ron Artest didn’t opt out then doubted his decision. It looks like that might be a moot point.
Multiple media outlets reported on Tuesday that the Sacramento Kings had agreed to trade the forward to the Houston Rockets.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the Kings would receive Bobby Jackson, a No. 1 draft pick in 2009 and another player that the newspaper’s source could not identify. The Associated Press, citing anonymous league sources, said that the other player would be rookie forward Donte Greene.
That means the deal can’t be announced yet because Greene, acquired by the Rockets on draft night last month, signed a contract with Houston on July 14. A player can’t be traded within 30 days of signing a contract, according to league rules.
KRIV television in Houston reported that the Kings will also receive cash.
“Yes, it has been tentatively agreed upon,” said Artest’s agent, Mark Stevens, according to KRIV. “Now it has to be confirmed by the league office and until that is done, it’s not official.”
Two weeks ago, Artest told ESPN.com that he was unhappy with himself for not opting out of his deal and becoming a free agent before the July 1 deadline. He hoped to be traded to “a team out there that can be more committed than Sacramento to me.”
In Houston, Artest would team with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming to form one of the toughest trios in the NBA. With Yao injured much of the season, the Rockets finished 55-27 last season, good for third in the Southwest Division. They lost in the first round to the Utah Jazz in six games.
When told of the deal, McGrady was ecstatic.
“I couldn’t be more happy,” McGrady said, according to KRIV. “Pleased at how the organization is trying to improve this team, get the help that Yao and myself really need to really get to where we want to be and that’s one of the elite teams in this league.
“If this is true, this is definitely what I have been waiting on for 11 years in my career, for a team to really improve and put the talent [on the floor] that I feel that we can compete with the best.”
Injuries held Artest to only 57 games last season, but he averaged 20.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game for the 38-44 Kings. Sacramento traded point guard Mike Bibby during the season last year and dealing Artest shows that the team is in full rebuilding mode under second-year coach Reggie Theus.
“He brings a mental and physical toughness” McGrady said, according to KRIV. “He brings a guy that competes at a high level on the basketball court. Defensively, he’s tough. Offensively, he is a force to be reckoned with. He’s probably one of the most difficult guys to guard on the perimeter because of his size, because of his strength.”
The 28-year-old Artest is as well known for his volatile personality as his basketball skills. While playing for the Indiana Pacers, he was the central figure in the 2004-05 brawl with fans at The Palace of Auburn Hills during a road game against the Detroit Pistons.
He was suspended for 73 games, the NBA’s harshest punishment for a fight. In December, two civil lawsuits against Artest that stemmed from the fight were dismissed.
Artest had surgery on his left thumb in April and was expected to take 8-to-10 weeks to recover. His summer has been just as turbulent as most of his NBA career.
After wavering for more than two months, Artest elected not to opt out of the final year of his contract for $7.4 million by July 1. But the forward immediately announced he regretted his decision, saying the Kings had misled him on their interest in a long-term contract extension. Artest also said he couldn’t see himself playing in Sacramento beyond next season.
Artest apologized to the Kings a few days later but one week after that, Artest demanded a trade, claiming he had been blinded to his career well-being by his friendship with the Maloof family, which owns the Kings.
Joe Maloof responded sharply to Artest, warning the forward to muzzle himself. Two weeks later, the Kings apparently found a taker for Artest’s defensive skills and high-maintenance personality.
The trade will reunite Artest with Rick Adelman, who coached Sacramento when Artest was acquired by the Kings in a trade with Indiana during the 2005-06 season.
Artest played 40 games for Adelman and averaged 16.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and a career-high 4.2 assists. He was also named to the NBA All-Defensive first team.
The Kings, meanwhile, would be thrilled to get their hands on Greene, a 6-foot-11 forward from Syracuse who impressed the club in pre-draft workouts. Greene was drafted by Memphis with the 28th overall pick and traded to Houston in a three-team deal on draft night.
Although Greene played just one college season, he proved to be a versatile scorer who could fit well into Theus’ uptempo game plans.
Jackson, who split his time between New Orleans and Houston last season, averaged 7.7 points per game. This would be his second stint with the Kings where he had his most productive years of his career from 2000 to 2005.
Credit: Associated Press