The NBA's Second Artest
As previously mentioned, the first thing I saw when I entered the gym for the Wizards' first Summer League game was Daniel Artest, the younger brother of Ron, soaring through the air for a dunk during layup lines, to the extent that a 300-pound man can soar through the air. The program lists him at 280. Daniel told me he's more like 290. Ron told me it's probably more like 300. The Hilton Sports Book has the over-under at 297.
Also as previously mentioned, Ron Artest watched the Kings-Wiz game from the front row, at times holding a bright green stuffed animal, which presumably belonged to the children with whom he sat. I asked him whether I might take his photo. He declined but said maybe later. I decided to wait. When Ron Artest asks you not to take his photo, I believe prudence dictates that you not take his photo.
But I did talk to both Ron and Daniel about Daniel's budding basketball career. Daniel caused a bit of a flap earlier in the week with some talk of Ron's potential move to the Knicks (read Posting and Toasting and Sactown Royalty for more), and so he kindly asked me not to discuss that topic, which doesn't interest me much anyhow.
So, where to begin? Daniel has both a sense of humor and a sense of grandeur about the whole thing, so I'll let you decide exactly how serious this all is, but my impression is it's plenty serious. Like, I asked Daniel to compare himself to a current NBA guy.
"Nobody, really, because I don't think nobody could do what I do," he told me. "A lot of people try to compare me to like a Chuck Hayes or whatever, but he can't do what I can do. I can shoot that ball. I can shoot that rock. I can ball. I can get it."
As for the why, "I'm trying to just experience playing the professional game and the NBA life," he said. "It's fun, by the way."
Photos after the jump.
Daniel never played high school basketball; he told me that he never wanted to and never thought about it, preferring streetball. On the other hand, Ron told me that Daniel couldn't play in high school because of his grades--"but he reads a lot," Ron pointed out, which, frankly, is more important. And Daniel did play against some playground legends, and for a couple colleges, and for a third division German team. And he works out all the time with Ron, and so he got a Kings tryout. Ron told me he asked the coaches for the tryout, and Daniel told me the coaches saw him working out and asked him if he'd like to try out.
Regardless, Daniel was asked about the biggest challenge of launching an NBA career at the age of 24.
"Doing everything, the same thing, every day," he said, "just getting up early in the morning and going to practice, stuff that I'm not used to. I just started organized basketball like three years ago. It's a whole new experience, but I'm ready for the challenge."
He and Ron began working out seriously three months ago, and Daniel has already dropped at least 20 pounds. But even at 300 he can throw down, and anyhow the weight isn't important, due to the position he hopes to play.
"They want me to be a guard, but I like playing like Barkley," he told me. "I'm fast enough to be a guard. Whenever I get the opportunity to play, you're gonna see how I play. I can jump and everything. I can hit the NBA three. I've been working on my whole game. We've been doing this for months. A lot of running, shooting drills. We'll shoot like 600 shots a day, every day, then we'll come back at nighttime and shoot up another two or three hundred more. I push [Ron] and he pushes me."
Then Daniel told me that he can take Ron one-on-one, and urged me to ask Ron for confirmation. Which I did. He dodged the question, but was effusive in his praise of his brother.
"If you can see him play, he's gonna surprise people," Ron said, the "if" being necessary because of Daniel's DNP yesterday. "What it is, is a lot of people lack guidance, you know? Me being in the NBA, I didn't have time to worry about my brother, but everybody else got agents, and everybody else have connections, and my brother don't have that, you know? So I'm going to give him as much help as possible as my brother.
"He'll be in the League one day. If he keeps working, he'll be in the League. Because there's nobody really in the League [like him], besides maybe [Chuck] Hayes from Houston, the kid [Sharrod?] Ford who used to play with Phoenix, another big guy who played for Boston, a real big kid. There's not many players like Barkley, those type of guys, not many players like that in the league.
"He could be one of those types of players. He can shoot, that's gonna help. He can shoot, he can handle the ball, he can shoot threes. I don't think a lot of guys at his physique, at his position, his type of players can shoot threes as well as he can shoot threes, you know? So I think that will separate him."
Realistically, Daniel is hoping to spend next year overseas, and to use Summer League as an audition to that end. He downplayed Ron's role in getting him this chance; if Ron had real influence, Daniel pointed out, he probably wouldn't be logging DNP's, an argument I couldn't counter. Also, Daniel says he's a better lyricist than Ron, although he's not as seriously into the music biz.
"I rap, but I'm not a rapper," he told me. "I'm just doing it because I ain't got nothing else to do, besides working out. And living in Sacramento? Ain't nothing else to do but to do music. But I ain't trying to be like Ron."
"He don't take it as seriously as I take it," Ron agreed. "I rap; he just jokes."
July 11, 2007; 4:19 AM ET
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