Ron Artest gave quite a few meandering answers today when asked about drinking during games while he played with the Chicago Bulls early in his career. He discussed his drinking in an interview for a story that will appear in the Monday issue of the magazine. He did not mention the words “drink” or “drinking” today while talking with reporters. Here’s some of what he did say about why he said what he said:
“We’re doing a program with (at-risk) kids on the verge of going to jail, we’re doing something where people are there to speak to, giving them advice so they won’t go down the wrong road. There are two examples of guys who went their own way. One is Leon Powe. You know his story and how strong he was. That’s a great story. The other story is my friend (Michael) Chatfield, who passed away. That’s a bad story.”
Artest referred to Powe’s story of being homeless for a time while growing up in Oakland. He also spoke of boyhood friend Chatfield, who was apparently killed in an act of street violence earlier this year in New York City.
“For kids out there, you’ve got to watch who you look up to. I had some people I wished I hadn’t looked up to. I played with people, in street ball, we would go get water and Gatorade and they got Olde E(nglish 800) to re-energize. It was funny to us back then. That’s not something you want to put in your body as a professional athlete. Or any athlete. I don’t think I’m one of those role-model type guys or somebody to give advice. I understand I’m in a situation where I have to be a role model. I’m in that situation. It’s not something I’m running from. I have to tell people where I’ve been. When it comes up later, it’s not going to be a shock. I think I’ll be more of a role model in the future.”
Said Lakers coach Phil Jackson:
“I really haven’t talked to him about it. I thought we would at some point. We met this morning and talked about other issues that were important to us as a team right now. I anticipate that was something that was blown out of context a little bit. I don’t know if that was a daily or game-by-game occurrence or not. I just believe that at all. I just don’t think a player can get away with that kind of thing in the NBA. Somebody is going to see you or smell the alcohol on your breath. It’s not going to happen on a day-to-day basis.
“And so Ron said those things and I have to respect that he’s speaking the truth, but I still don’t know how far that went, if that was like a once or twice occurrence. I haven’t met with him individually. We had a team meeting. We had to talk about basketball. I just think Ron was talking about the struggles he had in his basketball career. As I understand it, he was alluding to the fact that losing was creating a situation that was difficult for him to master, you know, the temperament it took to play when you lost.”