At least Ronnie knows the damage he did to the Pacers. I just wish he wouldn't talk about it.
Ken Berger has some interesting quotes from Artest about the way he left Indiana and the way his actions forcing a move still haunt him.
In an interview with CBSSports.com, Artest recently revealed just how scarred he remains from the infamous brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004, when he was excommunicated from basketball and branded not only a villain, but also a damaged soul -- a castoff not worthy or capable of rehabilitation. And it is worse than that for Artest, who said to this day he feels like a coward when in the presence of his former Pacers teammates like Reggie Miller and Jermaine O'Neal, as well as executives Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh.
"The biggest regret of my life, really, is bailing out on that Pacer team," Artest said. "I mean, outside not going to church every single Sunday, bailing out on that Pacer team is my biggest regret. Every time I see Jermaine, every time I see Steve [Jackson] and Jamaal [Tinsley] ... I get a little bit of a feeling when I see Bird, because he was such a great player and I respect him so much. So I get that feeling when I see Bird. I feel like a coward. I feel like I don't even belong in their presence, really."
While the story mentions the brawl here, Artest is really talking about the next season after the team stood by Artest figuratively and literally (remember Larry and Ronnie on the cover of Sports Illustrated?) and then Artest quickly flaked out looking for time off as the season started and then demanding a trade creating one of the all-time WTF moments for NBA player actions, which is saying something.
Berger captures that point and Artest continues lamenting his behavior which had him bailing on a championship caliber team.
Artest feels bad and hasn't been able to express his feelings to those he let down.
"When I saw Jermaine [this season], I felt like I didn't even belong in the same room as him," Artest said. "I felt like a coward. I don't like feeling like a coward, and I feel like a coward. That's the biggest regret of my life. Steve Jackson, Jermaine, Jamaal, even Jeff [Foster] -- a blue-collar guy like him, put his life on the line for us on the court, and I totally disrespected him. And of course Reggie. I was in a position to win a championship, Reggie was in position, and I bailed out on Reggie. I feel like a coward. A big-time coward. It's hard for me to even speak to them, hard for me to see them."
That's sweet, it really is, Ronnie, but I'm sure, like me, none of those guys from Reggie to Tinsley to Larry Bird really care how bad you feel about the whole thing. Nothing you do or say now will change the mess you left others to clean up in Indy. So, go ahead and enjoy the spotlight in the Finals and all of those lauding you for, well, not destroying the Lakers. Just leave the Pacers out of the conversation. We've moved on and nothing you say or feel about the past will help change that past.