SACRAMENTO There is the image, and there is the man himself. And as is often the case when it comes to celebrity and living a front-page existence, the truth is likely somewhere in between.
Two weeks after his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence at his Loomis home, Ron Artest said he was determined to fix everything - from his home life to public persona that are marked by controversy.
"People are always going to judge, and obviously I'm not perfect," the Kings small forward said before Monday's game in Atlanta. "I can be reckless at times, and things can happen and stuff. I'm always going to make mistakes, and maybe there's people out there that understand and maybe there's people that don't. I think maybe I can get those people that don't to understand the type of person I am."
Before he can work on his public image there is a matter of possible charges against Artest for domestic violence.
As of Tuesday, Placer County prosecutors had not yet decided whether to file criminal charges against Artest, and they would not indicate which way they were leaning. They would have to file by 10 a.m. Wednesday in order to hold the arraignment set for Thursday morning. Otherwise, they could ask for the arraignment to be postponed. If the district attorney decides against pursuing the case, no further court hearings will be held.
Artest said he is currently living in a hotel and is in the process of selling his house in Loomis, the estate where police have been called five times for domestic issues. Also, his Great Dane, Socks, was seized by Placer County officials in early February for failure to "provide proper nourishment."
"Yeah, a lot of things happened up (at the house), so maybe it's time for some change," he said.
Artest did not say whether he is talking to his wife, Kimsha, and their three kids again, but he was adamant that long-term separation is not the solution.
"My family's together," he said smiling. "We'll never separate.... We've been together for all these years...."
Artest said he has yet to undergo counseling or other treatment, with his reinstatement March 10 leading to a five-game road trip that had the Kings out of town for five games in seven days.
"Once the schedule clears up, I'll be able to do things," he said. "We've got to take care of this (Kings) business first, and then see what's appropriate."
Artest's already-tattered image has surely taken another hit, a reality of which he is acutely aware. The enigmatic star said he's at a crossroads of sorts in deciding how to handle his public persona, knowing full well that second chances are already behind him.
"I think it's just probably about how far I want to take it, if I want people to really see the real Ron Artest or if I'm going to not let people in my personal life and they can stay with the views they have," he said. "Sometimes when you're in (the public eye) so much, you don't want to be in there constantly."
Artest is still just 27 years old and can opt out of his contract after the 2007-08 season, and there is little room for lowering his market appeal should the Kings decide to trade him during the offseason. While the season remains, to this point, a disappoint for the collective bunch, Artest's numbers on the floor have only risen as he's experienced turmoil off of it.
Since Jan. 2, he is averaging 21.3 points, shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range and has led the league in steals for most of the season. And as he contests, this campaign would have been a much different one if his knees and back had held up.
"If I didn't have my back and my knees, they'd probably be talking about me for MVP," he said. "We'd be winning games."
Artest isn't the only one concerned about minimizing the off-the-court issues. According to two sources close to the team who did not want to be identified because they're unauthorized to speak on the team's behalf, the Kings are now considering hiring a mentor who would travel with the team.