Confession is apparently good for Ron Artest’s soul. The Lakers forward says he feels “cleansed” after admitting he drank before games and during halftime early in his career.
After Lakers practice today, Artest was at the media confessional again, confirming the Sporting News report that he drank before and during games while playing for the Chicago Bulls, part of a pattern of alcohol abuse when he first entered the league. He came forward now to help tell current adolescents, he said, sending the message that they are not alone dealing with pressure.
In a radio interview with ESPN 1000, he said was not proud.
"I was just a young player in the NBA; certain situations I only knew how to handle it one way. I guess being famous, fame, not being able to handle it at such a young age, led to a lot of frustration and would lead to me making dumb decisions, such as the comment I made the other day.
"It's something I'm not proud of. I know a lot of people in my situation, trying be successful, whether it's education or athletics or even entertainment that is not able to withstand the pressure that comes with it. That was my whole purpose in trying to get that story out about a month ago."
He said he hopes that the original story that sparked this controversy — to come out in next week’s Sporting News — will paint a more well rounded picture, one of a person who is more mature now at 30 and recognizes the mistakes of his youth. He also understands that the Sporting News leaked the most salacious parts of the interview to sell papers.
Although, after Artest talked to the media Thursday, it’s not clear now many more surprises there could be in that story. Artest has already covered a lot: He said that he drank before games and at halftime while playing in Chicago, something people within the Bulls organization questioned after the story first broke. He said that he's not going to fight Ben Wallace on the court -- although he may want to -- but once they both retire, it would make a good boxing match. He danced around the fact the NBA is now looking into his comments, which could lead to a fine or suspension, particularly comments about NBA referee Joey Crawford.
Thanks to Artest's comments, there was a lot of extra media circling around the Lakers practice facility Thursday. So Artest is back to being a distraction to his teammates, right? Not if you ask Kobe Bryant.
Bryant said all that stuff happened in the past and he’s “not doing that [stuff] now,” so that the Lakers players couldn’t care less. For a franchise that has seen the ugliness of the Kobe/Shaq feud, and for a team that has been to the NBA Finals for two straight years, a little extra media around asking questions is not that big a deal. This is LA, after all.
LA is also the home of second chances and comebacks, so long as you’ve confessed your sins. Something Artest knows very well.