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Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Artest takes 500 shots; cast on non-shooting hand

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Wearing a cast on his non-shooting hand, Ron Artest took nearly 500 shots as he returned to practice with the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

Left thumb surgery will likely keep Artest out of most of the Pacers' remaining 26 regular season games, but the forward was cleared to take part in workouts.

Artest and team officials have refused to set a timetable for his return from surgery to repair torn ligaments. Artest's surgeon told him to wait 72 hours after his Thursday surgery before practicing again.

Al Harrington will continue to start in Artest's place and Jonathan Bender and Austin Croshere have seen their minutes increase. All three have played well in the first two games without their All Star co-captain and best defender.

"In the absence of a guy like Ron Artest, we're going to need other people to step up," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Al Harrington gave us a strong game against Utah and then having Croshere and Bender step up like they did, really at both ends of the floor was critical."

If that success continues, Artest said he'd be willing to come off the bench when he returns.

"Whatever it takes," he said. "If the team is rolling along, I'll do whatever it takes to get victories."