Sacramento, Calif. Ron Artest was in Africa on a goodwill tour, of all things, when the NBA announced Saturday that the Kings forward would be suspended for seven games for last season's bad acts.
And which particular bad acts were those, you ask? It does get confusing. You need a calendar and calculator to keep up. Brawls. Elbows. Obscene gestures. Failure to ensure that his dogs are adequately cared for during midseason road trips. And in this current, far more egregious incident, his inability to keep his hands off another person his wife, Kimsha during their much-publicized domestic incident last March.
Following his no contest plea, he was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and a 10-day work project. The court of David Stern on Saturday followed with the suspension that will take place at the beginning of next season. Additionally, Artest is undergoing counseling, and according to Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie, making unscheduled visits to local animal shelters.
All of which seems like a fair and reasonable resolution to an ugly situation, and factoring in his repeated mea culpas, it looks and sounds eerily like Ron being Ron.
He does contrition like Bill Clinton. He messes up, sheds a few tears, shakes a few hands. He appears genuinely sincere about recasting his image, and more importantly, about changing his life. He's in Africa on a goodwill tour, for heaven's sakes. He tries, he really tries.
In other words, given his complex, convoluted history, some good always follows the bad. He has a script and he sticks to it. He plays his best after the brawls, the suspensions, the controversies, the trades. He gets his life and his act together ... for a while.
"Ron is still in his prime," noted Petrie, calling on his cellphone from Las Vegas, "and he's getting near the end of his contract. He knows what he has to do. Sometimes it comes down to following your own advice."
Petrie, in fact, has become increasingly resistant to trading his most talented player, the recurring off-court issues and accompanying fan backlash notwithstanding. If far from untouchable - the only King in that category is Kevin Martin - retaining Artest in the short term makes too much sense on too many levels, foremost among them talent level and salary cap considerations.
In some respects, this Artest-Kings pairing is the perfect relationship: it can end amicably when Artest opts out of his contract next offseason, or the parties can renew their vows and enter into a long-term commitment.
But right now Artest needs the Kings, and the Kings, who are rebuilding with a rookie coach and a swollen, unwieldy salary cap situation, absolutely need Artest. Or if not Artest, than a better behaved equivalent and/or coveted future lottery pick.
Also Saturday, Stephen Jackson netted a seven-game suspension by the league. Jackson of the Golden State Warriors pleaded guilty last month to a felony count of criminal recklessness for firing a gun outside an Indiana strip club last fall, when he was with the Pacers.