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Q & A: Artest hits the road and the hardwood

By Sam Amick -- Bee Staff Writer

Published 12:01 am PDT Sunday, July 9, 2006

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LAS VEGAS -- In this house of Kings, the matriarch was on the premises.

Colleen Maloof, the mother of Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof and the foundation of a family empire, approached Ron Artest while he dined at a Palms Casino Resort restaurant.

Artest -- surrounded by plates of orange chicken, fried calamari and matzo ball soup -- arose for a warm greet, saying hello for the first time since he sparked a turnaround of impressive proportions last season. And then, as if no time had passed since his arrival last January and playoff prediction soon after, the vows began.

"Hey, Mama Maloof," he said. "How you doing? Good? We're going to get you a championship this year."

Colleen Maloof smiled.

"That'd be nice before I die," she said.

Artest is back, with the visions of nothing less than a championship and the notions that he can, indeed, balance one wild life of both a basketball star and a rap artist. The ever-intriguing small forward with big dreams looked forward and back Friday, taking a break from summer-league hoops to sit down with The Bee.

Q: You've been all over this summer, haven't you?

A: I've been all over. I've been to Salt Lake, Phoenix, El Paso, Albuquerque, Miami, Detroit, Memphis, back to Memphis, summer jam in (New) Jersey. I've got to go to Memphis on (July) 14th, Jacksonville on the 20th, Atlanta on the 22nd, all tours. I'm overseas on (July) 27th to the 18th of August. It's like 10 or 15 different countries. Germany, Portugal, Denmark, all over.

Q: Have you ever toured this much?

A: I did 20 shows last summer, but it was all in the United States. But it wasn't ever in a tour bus. Never official. I performed in front of 8,000 people a week ago in Memphis. They were feeling me. Most of the places I go, they respect me.

Q: By the end of the summer, how many shows you think you'll end up doing?

A: Probably 25, 30.

Q: What was life on the bus like?

A: It's crazy. It's tiring. It's like you go to one city, do a job, then drive like 10 hours. It's kind of like the NBA, but the music life is so much crazier. The road is just crazy. And when we go overseas, we're going to fly, obviously, but we're going to drive to every country. I didn't know in Europe that all the countries connect, so we're driving to every country we're going to. That should be pretty cool.

Q: Did you follow the (Kings') coaching situation closely while you were gone?

A: Yeah, I followed it pretty close. I heard a lot of different names (of potential coaches to replace Rick Adelman, who was let go in early May). I knew they were going to pick a good coach because everybody and their mother knows that they want to win. I just left it up to them and wasn't worried about it.

Q: Did you ever chime in to say what you thought about this guy or that guy?

A: No, because (Kings president of basketball operations) Geoff Petrie has been doing this so long, you know? I knew whoever they were going to bring in was going to be good. And it shows already.

Q: You had a good run with Rick, and you guys had a good rapport. What were you thinking when they made that decision?

A: We had a really good run. I love Rick. We had probably one of the best seasons in the history of the NBA, with how it turned out. Who ever had a turnaround like we did? I don't know. I don't think anybody. It might have been one of the best turnarounds. Besides the (New York) Knicks team that was the eight seed and won the (1999 Eastern Conference) championship.

Q: But were you disappointed when they decided to let him go?

A: Not really, because I try to not worry about all that stuff that's out of my control. I don't worry about it. There's too much stuff going on to worry about certain things. I'm trying to work on myself, you know what I'm saying? If I let that distract me or bother me … I'll just let them do their job.

Q: What did you know about (new Kings coach Eric) Musselman before this? Did you know his name? Did you know who he was?

A: I've seen him before. But when they said we got Musselman, I thought we got his (late) father (Bill Musselman). I though, oh cool, we got Musselman. I didn't know it was his son.

Q: What do you think of the hire now?

A: I was like -- cool. I've heard nothing but good things about him. I talked to players. And of course Geoff (Petrie) was telling me. I was at this place the other night, and this player (formerly) from Memphis (free-agent guard Antonio) Burks, he said, 'Man, you've got one of the best coaches in the league.' He said, 'Yo, Ron, you've got the best coach in the league.' I'm at a club, you know, and players don't say that. Players aren't going to come up to you and say that. I was like, Wow, that's neat. That's a big statement right there, coming from a player in a club. He had nothing bad to say about him.

Q: How was the first day working with (Musselman)?

A: It was good. That's why I wanted to get back into it, to give me a chance to get back in that mode. I wanted to get that feeling of what's at stake next year. It's real important that we win. It's real important that I get in an NBA game in July. I don't want to get it back in September. I want it now, to get back in an NBA atmosphere. It re-energizes me coming to summer league. That's why I like to come here.

Q: How much are you keeping an eye on what (Kings management) is doing? Right now, it seems like (free-agent shooting guard) Bonzi (Wells) is on the fence. How badly do you want to see him back next year?

A: Everybody wants Bonzi back, including me. Bonzi is very tough. He's tough, and I know we can win a championship. I know it.

Q: Have you talked to him, done any campaigning to get him back?

A: He called me last week. I told him if he leaves, then I'm going to kill him. Unless he wants to die, he's got to stay (with the Kings).

Q: How much would it set your goals back if he doesn't come back?

A: I'm not even thinking that way right now. Bonzi's a Sacramento King, right now. I think he's still getting a check from them, too. Or maybe he is free, but he's a Sacramento King.

Q: What about your offer to give up some of your money?

A: I would if they'd let me. I'll put up $1 million if they'd let me.

Q: You have two years left on your deal (with a player option for the 2008-09 season). Have you given much thought to your next contract?

A: I'm not really thinking about it. I'm just going to play out my years. But it'd be a good thing (to extend his contract). I would love to get it done and get it out of the way. I just don't want to get low-balled. Be fair. I'm not the type of guy where I want to break banks. I like players, and I'd rather the team had more money to get players rather than me have all the money.

Q: When would you want to start looking at that?

A: Whenever they're available. By that time (when his next contract potentially ends), I'll be like 32 years old. That's about the time I want to be finished. Right around 32, 34, I want to be done.

Q: You don't want to play into your late 30s?

A: Nah. I can't wait to get home with my kids. My daughter will be like 15. My son will be older. I'm on the road so much now, I can't wait to be home, doing schoolwork with them and stuff. Right now, I'm on tour. I'm here, practicing, missing my kids.

That's horrible. It's hard. I'm leaving at 12 at night to go to a club to promote my music. I'm waking up tired, waking up to give my daughter a kiss or whatever, get up again and go work. I've got to succeed. I've got to.

Q: I heard your house in Loomis is pretty nice? You get settled?

A: Yeah, I love it. It's like five acres. Everybody said to not go that far out (away from Sacramento), but my kids got so spoiled (with land) in Indiana, so that's why we got the (five) acres so we can run around. We like a lot of dogs, too. I've got seven dogs. They're big dogs, too. I've got a bull mastiff, a Great Dane, golden retriever, American bulldog, a pit bull, a Lab …

Q: Last year was all about getting back in the league, getting your name back, getting on the court. How are you looking at this year?

A: I'm just looking to win a championship. That's why I came to the Kings last year. I wanted to win.

Q: What are you looking to work on for next season?

A: Every year, I improve on everything. I try to keep my handle, post moves, rebound moves. Be able to go left, go right. My free throws are coming around. I just want to be in a position where, you know, if I have to take over a game I can take over a game, if need be. I never want to lose.

Q: When people hear about your (rap) touring, they'll probably wonder about your focus on hoops. You know that, right?

A: They can say that, but what other veterans are in summer league, and in shape right now?

Q: But when you came to the Kings, you went out of your way to not talk about the entertainment side of what you do. Obviously, you've loosened up on that a bit.

A: Yeah, but I'm not talking to everyone about it, mainly just (The Bee) and some radio. But summertime is my time to blow it up. The summertime is all music. I'm definitely working on my game, improving on my jump shot, fixing some kinks and stuff, but I love music. I've got this great album that nobody's heard yet. It was going to come out Sept. 26, but I have to reconstruct some things to do it the right way. It's beautiful. It sounds awesome.

Q: Which one do you love more, hoops or rap?

A: I love both of them. Not many people get a chance to make a song. I think people who make songs, they know how that feels, especially after you make a good song. When you've got a good song that's capable of being on the radio, how many people get a chance to put a song on the radio? It's a great feeling.


Two other topics discussed during lunch with Ron Artest:

On similarities between billionaire Donald Trump, both of the Maloofs and Artest:

"It's like Donald Trump. He was successful at a lot of different things, and then he fell. He had a nice little tumble, and then he came back, and he was successful at many things. And the Maloofs, they're successful at many things -- hotels, basketball, Maloof Music, Maloof Films. It's just like having a nice schedule, structuring what you're doing in a way where I'm not going to beat myself down. I'll do my shows, I'll work out. It'll work."

On how close he came to being traded from Indiana to the Los Angeles Clippers (the deal reportedly was called off because forward Corey Maggette failed a physical, and Artest later was traded to the Kings for Peja Stojakovic):

"(Clippers general manager) Elgin Baylor was sitting there (points across the table), and they were waiting on me. Elgin Baylor's my boy, and I said, 'Yeah, I want to come. It's a deal.' They said, 'Be ready to come to practice tomorrow.' But coach (Mike) Dunleavy got a phone call from (Indiana CEO) Donnie Walsh, and Donnie Walsh said the deal was off because Maggette didn't pass the physical. I was like a day away from going there."

-- Sam Amick

About the writer:

Ron Artest, leaving the Arco Arena floor after the first-round playoff loss to the Spurs, says the Kings faced other obstacles in San Antonio. Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

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