Ron Artest(notes) still feels guilty about the disappointments behind his run with the Indiana Pacers from 2002 through 2005, and he probably should feel guilty. There are reasons, legitimate excuses for his erratic (to say the absolute least) behavior as a Pacer, but just because we sympathize and understand what Artest was going through, that doesn't absolve him of blame.
And in Ron's defense, he's far from an absolivin' mood. From Thursday's Indianapolis Star:
"A coward, I was a coward,'' Artest said before Wednesday night's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Pacers. "When you do coward stuff, you feel like a coward. I don't care if it was done intentionally or by mistake, you're still a coward. I don't care how young I was. That's not an excuse.''
The rest of this (very good) column from Bob Kravitz details Artest's unending search for happiness and stability, how his life changed focus, and how his quest for his own personal brand of mental health has turned him into a needed crusader and spokesman for those who are seeking guidance on their own.
The column also reminds of one of the more overlooked aspects of Artest's legendary post-finals press conference in the bowels of the Staples Center last June. How, amongst all the silliness, Ron chose his peak professional moment (hell, witnessing that presser may have been my peak as a professional) as a time to make a very public amends to the Pacer organization:
"When I was younger, I bailed out on my Indiana team,'' he said during that interview session. "I was so young, so egotistical, and I bailed out on [team executives] Donnie [Walsh] [and] Larry [Bird] [and former teammates] Jermaine [O'Neal], [Jamaal] Tinsley, [Jeff] Foster, who never bails out. He just fights for you, for his team. Stephen Jackson(notes), who already had a ring, continued to fight for us.''
It's a very good read about a very complex individual who still has a lot to figure out, but appears to be on the right track.