Funny that the sanest guy in the NBA's big padded room is, at the moment, Ron Artest.
It doesn't mean he'll be a Sacramento King for long, for the rest of the summer, past February, whenever; but Artest declined to opt out of the last year of his contract on Monday.
Ron is due to make 7.4 million dollars next year in a deal that, for all of Artest's ups and downs on and off the court, consistently made him one of the better deals in all of basketball. He could have rolled the dice and tried to follow the big payoff, but instead Artest likely took some good advice and realized that the most flexible course of action would be to stay with the Kings, possibly get traded, and then utilize his Bird Rights with another team for a bigger contract next offseason.
In all actuality, it's a shocker Artest has only been traded once during the length of his deal, which was cobbled together in 2002, and not because he's a bit of a nutter. Rather, a guy this talented with a deal this relatively cheap, not too far above the league's average salary, could have been passed halfway around the league by now.
And though Artest could not be blamed for opting out of his deal in search of a more suitable pay day that, for all his faults, he still may have gotten, Ron chose the smarter path. Sure, the 7.4 million is less than he's worth, but it's also more than he likely would have signed for in - say with me now, once again - a free agent market full of teams with little to no cap space.
Artest did his team a favor by not only returning to possibly play on the relatively cheap, but by giving them a nice bit of trade bait, even if whatever partner the Kings choose to tango with is well aware that Ron will be an unrestricted free agent looking for a big pay day this time next year. Sacramento is rebuilding, we hope, and doesn't really need to employ Artest in his prime when they have youngsters to groom and assets to collect.
It's never easy pulling assets away from veteran teams like the Lakers and Spurs (two squads that have been rumored to covet Artest's services), but a little something is better than a lot of nothing, even if that nothing (letting Ron walk next summer) means a little payroll flexibility.
So kudos, NBA's craziest man, for coming through with the most orthodox and intelligent move of the offseason thus far.