Ron Artest to become the British Susan Lucci?

August, 11, 2011
8/11/11
6:53
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Just like there's more than one way to skin a proverbial cat -- actual cats should never be skinned, regardless of methodology-- there's more than one way for an overseas club to attempt luring an NBA player in the event of a lockout. For example, Besiktas, the Turkish squad hoping to land Kobe Bryant, has reportedly been brainstorming ways to secure enough cash to make an Istanbul jaunt worth The Mamba's while.

Similarly, the Cheshire Cats over in merry ol' England are interested in securing the services of Ron Artest, but a lavish salary isn't feasible. Thus, they've found another way to appeal to Ron Ron's sensibilities. Per ESPN.com's Marc Stein:

Jets director Peter Hawkins told ESPN.com Thursday that his team, in an attempt to offset the monetary limitations it faces compared to clubs from bigger leagues in Europe, will try to get Artest prominent TV work in England, should he agree to join the Jets.

"You'll appreciate that we haven't got the means to entice someone of Ron's standing on financial grounds," Hawkins said. "Our commitment is to help raise Ron's profile in the UK in order to help him develop his music and movie career over here while playing basketball."

One possibility, according to a source with knowledge of the Jets' plans, is trying to find Artest a role on a British soap opera.

I've been on record several times with my objections to Kobe playing for Besiktas, or any legitimate overseas squad. A title with Besiktas adds roughly zilch to Kobe's resume and he couldn't possibly need the money that badly. (Even if he does, I have a feeling opportunities to earn cash will present themselves even without stepping on a court.) In the meantime, Kobe has recurring injuries, the mileage of nearly 19 NBA seasons when you include the playoffs, and a relatively short window as an indisputably elite NBA player. I just don't think such a low reward scenario is worth Kobe's time and energy.

Ron's potential venture in England also concerns me, but for different reasons. Obviously, the injury risks are the same for both players. However, Ron doesn't have nearly the same impact as Kobe on the Lakers' fortunes and quite frankly, even at peak health, Artest is one of maybe five NBA players whose hops don't make Luke Walton jealous. Most fans have deemed Ron in steep decline as it is. A major ailment notwithstanding, I'm not sure additional wear and tear would be markedly noticeable.

Instead, what concerns me more is Ron being theoretically enticed in large part by the opportunity to appear on British soap operas, among other projects. Artest's moth-to-flame relationship with the spotlight has never been a secret. The guy lives to entertain, whether through a music career, boxer-clad Jimmy Kimmel Show appearances or blowing kisses to the crowd. In the beginning, these impulses felt more quirky than problematic. "Ron being Ron," if you will. Plus, the Lakers were winning and Ron's desire couldn't be questioned.

However, when time in the limelight increases while stats simultaneously decrease, it becomes easier to wonder about Ron growing distracted. That basketball is being viewed as a means of celebrity, rather than celebrity being the byproduct of basketball. Obviously, it's not impossible to balance these worlds. Lamar Odom, certainly no stranger to questions about focus, had the best season of his career while filming a reality TV show with Khloe Kardashian, a PR machine who by all accounts has actually grounded LO. Stranger things have happened than mutual success in basketball and Hollywood.

However, should a lovable but flighty player actually choose a basketball squad because of the fit with his filming schedule, it raises eyebrows, if not red flags. Should the chance to build your brand among England's couch potatoes really be such an attraction? No doubt, a shot at the British equivalent of a Daytime Emmy is one heckuva lure, but considering the sub-par season Ron just endured, it would be reassuring if basketball appeared at least a consideration. Thus far, I haven't gotten that vibe. Even as someone who has often defended Artest's intentions, and even acknowledging we're a long way from a signed dotted line, something about this doesn't sit well for me.

To borrow a phrase made famous by TV, I hope Ron hasn't jumped the shark.

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