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Sunday, January 04, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Eastern Conference notes: Artest not going anywhere despite antics, officials say

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Indiana's Ron Artest's latest flare-up last week inspired speculation about his future with the Pacers, but team officials said their resident bad boy is safe for now.

"I think Ron's here," coach Rick Carlisle told the Indianapolis Star. "I think Ron's here for the year, I'll put it that way. He's too valuable a player. He's an essential part to what we're doing. Much of our system is built around his abilities at both ends of the court. So I don't see us trading him. But I'm not the official word on that."

That would be general manager Larry Bird, who wasn't exactly a Boy Scout during his playing days in Boston, when he often ignored coaches' play calls and got into the occasional fight during games.

"It's very important to have a tight-knit team and have everybody on the same page," Bird said. "But Ronnie's an incredible athlete, he's a great basketball player, and I think he understands that he does things to the team."

Speculation about Artest's tenure arose after a 22-point loss at Minnesota on Dec. 20, when he declared Carlisle's play-calling system to be "boring." He missed last Monday's shoot-around and was benched before the Memphis game.

Still, Artest has been rather tame this season compared to last season, when he was suspended for 12 games and led the NBA with eight flagrant fouls.

Nets shopping Rodgers

New Jersey is rumored to be seeking offers for Rodney Rogers, who has been a bitter disappointment during his two seasons with the Nets. The 6-foot-7 power forward averaged a career-low 7.0 points last season and is averaging just 5.1 points this season.

Rodgers is scheduled to earn $3 million this season and $3.4 million next season. The 11-year veteran has played with five different teams.



• Minnesota received a gift from Chicago when the Bulls released Trenton Hassell and chose not to re-sign Fred Hoiberg. Hassell is starting and was averaging 26.3 minutes entering last night. Hoiberg is Minnesota's top reserve and was averaging 8.6 points entering last night's game at Dallas.

"It's been great for both of us to be here," Hoiberg told the Chicago Sun-Times. "To be here where every game counts, as opposed to Chicago, where after 25 games we were out of the playoffs.

"It's a lot of fun. I always knew Chicago had a plan, but it happened that they had to rebuild two times when I was there."

• Cleveland guard LeBron James turned 19 on last Tuesday. When asked what he wanted for his birthday, he jokingly replied, "a Hummer."

Last year, the Ohio High School Athletic Association performed a two-week investigation before determining James had not compromised his amateur status by accepting a Hummer H2 sport-utility vehicle as a gift from his mother.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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