More than two years after being the flashpoint during one the NBA’s ugliest moments, Ron Artest looks forward to taking the court at the Palace of Auburn Hills once again.
This time, Artest will lead the Sacramento Kings (15-22) into suburban Detroit on Saturday to meet the Pistons - who may have to deal with another suspension.
Playing for Indiana on Nov. 19, 2004, Artest charged into the stands trying to attack a fan who pelted him with a beverage. That touched off what is considered one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history, and what NBA commissioner David Stern called “shocking, repulsive and inexcusable.”
Five players on the Pacers and Pistons received suspensions totaling 55 games, but Stern levied the strongest punishment against Artest, suspending him for the remainder of the 2004-05 season - 73 games - that caused him to forfeit nearly $5 million of his salary.
Last season, Artest didn’t play for either the Pacers or the Kings, to whom he was traded for Peja Stojakovic, during their visits to the Palace.
“I haven’t played there in a long time and it’s going to be a fun environment. I’m looking forward to Detroit,” Artest said earlier this week, adding that “sometimes things happen once in a lifetime. I think that was a once in a lifetime thing. I can’t see it happening again.”
Pistons CEO Tom Wilson said he will be curious to see how fans react to Artest.
“But I don’t think anything will be out of hand,” Wilson said. “If fans are close to unruly with heckling, we’ll move them.”
The Kings (16-22) enter this game looking to win back-to-back road contests for only the second time this season. Kevin Martin scored 14 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter, and Artest had 19 and 11 rebounds for his first double-double in more than two months as Sacramento halted a seven-game skid with a 96-91 victory at Boston on Friday.
“We played with a sense of urgency,” said Martin, who leads the team in scoring with 21.3 points per game, but is averaging 25.0 in his last three. “We just had to get one any way we could.”
The Kings, who are 5-11 on the road, defeated Utah and Denver on Dec. 15 and 22, respectively for its only consecutive wins away from Arco Arena.
“I know they can win without me. I don’t think they can win without K.G.,” said McDyess, who appeared to start the skirmish by knocking Mark Madsen over with a forearm shiver while they maneuvered for rebound position with 5:18 remaining in regulation and the score tied.
McDyess is averaging a career-low 5.5 points.
“I can’t wait until we really become a cohesive unit,” said Billups, who has scored 51 points in two games after missing eight with a calf injury. “Tonight we were pretty fired up, especially late. I can’t wait to get back to running all of the plays for this offense.”
Chris Webber, making his first start in his second game with the Pistons, had 16 points and seven rebounds in 38 minutes. He starred with Sacramento from 1998-2005 and helped the Kings come within one game of the NBA Finals in 2002.