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Jack and Artest: Enjoyable From a Distance

On the heels of "Good Jack's" explosive performance that propelled Golden State past the Mavs and on to the second round of the playoffs(7 of 8 from 3-land? Are you kidding? Heads up for a 1 for 10 in the second round), Mark Montieth shines a kind light on Jack and Ron Artest. He perfectly expresses the reason I find myself rooting for both guys despite their respective roles in the Pacers' current situation.

I was in both of their homes when they played for the Pacers _ yes, they were there, too _ and traveled to both of their hometowns. One of Artest's AAU coaches drove me through his Queensbridge neighborhood on a Sunday evening, where we watched what appeared to be drug deals taking place on dark street corners. Jackson's mother drove me around Port Arthur, Tex., showing me the home he bought her, the home he grew up in and the church he attended every Sunday.

I don't think of Artest as someone who went into the stands to confront a fan who threw a beer on him, or who's had domestic issues with his wife. I don't think of Jackson as someone who went into the stands to support Artest, or was run over by a convicted felon in the parking lot of a strip club.

I think of two guys who love basketball, have used it to escape difficult surroundings, are routinely unassuming, engaging and generous, and have initiated grassroots charity efforts in the hometowns where they beat the odds.

Yes, these guys are blessed with some physical gifts but from where they came, their NBA game doesn't develop without putting in the work. They earned every minute and dollar they receive now by working through some unthinkable obstacles when they were young.

Especially in the case of Artest, the internal scars may never heal. Would either give up their basketball fame and wealth for a peaceful childhood with a loving mother and father to guide their way? On some days, maybe. I for one can only empathize with the hardships Ronnie and Jack faced, so I root for them hoping their past erratic behavior remains in the past. Unfortunately, they both remain ticking bombs that can go off at any time. For that, I'm happy they are no longer with the Pacers, but I still hold out hope that one day those bombs are defused once and for all.