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Artest totaled 24 points and nine rebounds in Sunday's home victory over Phoenix but declined to speak with reporters at Arco Arena before or after the game. The Kings' 107-100 triumph avenged Thursday's loss in Phoenix, which was the third game Artest has missed since being arrested at his Sacramento-area home March 5 after a domestic dispute with his wife.
After news of Artest's retirement musings spread, Kings forward Corliss Williamson confirmed to The Sacramento Bee that Artest sent text messages to several teammates about retiring when this season is over. The possibility of the eight-year veteran walking away from the Kings after the season to focus on family life was also raised over the weekend at hiphopgame.com, where Artest has been posting journal entries this season.
But it should be noted that this isn't the first time he's brought up retirement. Before and after his 73-game suspension with Indiana during the 2004-05 season, Artest suggested numerous times publicly that he could be content without the NBA in his life.
Few league observers believed him then and similar skepticism -- inside and outside the Kings' organization -- is bound to greet his latest sentiments, even though Artest clearly has much to consider off the floor.
Artest pleaded not guilty on Thursday to four misdemeanor charges stemming from this month's domestic dispute, which follows a January incident in which Placer County officials seized a dog from his home. The Bee reported Sunday night on its Web site that Artest will be in New York on Monday to meet with league officials regarding the misdemeanor charges against him.The Bee also reported that Artest met with Kings president Geoff Petrie after the game to discuss the retirement talk.
"He's under a lot of scrutiny and at a point, really, in his own career where he needs to be a better keeper of his own soul in some ways," Petrie told the newspaper. "We'll assess in the context of the whole season where we go [with Artest from here]. But again, it's sort of Ron being Ron."
The 27-year-old has two seasons left on his contract after this one, both at a salary of $7.4 million. Artest has the option to terminate the contract after next season and enter the free-agent market in July 2008.
Artest was widely hailed as a savior in Sacramento last season after the Kings acquired him from the Pacers in a late January trade for Peja Stojakovic. The Kings were 17-24 when they made the trade and wound up rallying into the postseason, extending San Antonio to six games in the first round and stretching their run under co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof to eight straight seasons in the playoffs.
During the offseason, both Maloofs openly described Artest as the new face of the franchise, expressing hope that the enigmatic swingman would finish his career with the Kings.
This season, though, has been turmoil-ridden from the start, with ongoing reports of locker-room strife, and first-year coach Eric Musselman struggling to assert his authority over the Kings. Artest and point guard Mike Bibby both were made available before the league's Feb. 22 trade deadline, leading to speculation that the Kings will be looking to jettison both -- as well as Musselman -- this offseason.
In an interview with ESPN.com in November 2004, just one week before the melee at The Palace of Auburn Hills that led to the longest suspension in NBA history, Artest raised and then shot down the idea of early retirement in the same conversation.
"If I think I want to retire, it doesn't make me crazy," Artest said at the time. "What's so crazy about being home with your family? I don't see anything so crazy about that. If people think that's crazy, maybe they don't know what it's like to be with their family. Family is more important than money."
But then he added: "I really -- before I retire -- I want to win a championship. I want to reach at least one of the things Michael Jordan reached."
After entering his not guilty plea last week, Artest was ordered by a Placer County Superior Court judge to stay at least 100 yards away from wife, Kimsha, and their three children until further notice. Artest is allowed to communicate with his family by telephone, e-mail and letter, with another court hearing scheduled for April 5.
He was arrested March 5 at the family's estate in Loomis, Calif., some 25 miles northeast of Sacramento. Artest is accused of grabbing, pushing and slapping his wife. He pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges of battery and corporal injury to a spouse, false imprisonment and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime.
Artest has since apologized to his family and his teammates at a news conference. He's played in seven games since the incident, averaging 18.7 points and 6.0 rebounds, but the Kings are 1-6 in those games.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.