Thursday, August 11, 2011
UK team entices Ron Artest
By Marc Stein
The Cheshire Jets are offering to help Ron Artest grow his off-court profile in the United Kingdom as a means of enticing the Los Angeles Lakers' swingman to play with the British Basketball League club this fall in the event of an extended NBA lockout.
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.
Artest's publicist, Courtney Barnes, said that Artest will be in the United Kingdom Aug. 18-23 and is scheduled to meet with the Jets during his stay to discuss options outside of basketball available to him.
"Ron is just going to the UK to take a meeting," Barnes said in a phone interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com Thursday. "That's it.
"There's no deal in place for him to play. ... He is just going to see the lay of the land."
It became clear Tuesday that Artest is giving serious consideration to playing in England this fall, despite the BBL's modest standing in terms of world basketball, when he posted the following message via his Twitter feed: "Go Jets!!!!! Uk , here we come!!! Jets are the best!!! Jets are the best!!! New chant!!!!!!!!!"
On the team's website, Hawkins said: "We are honored that Ron has even mentioned the prospect of joining the Jets. Financially we have nothing to offer him, but it would be so significant for UK basketball, we have offered him a stake in the club and all the love in the world!"
According to FIBA rules announced in late July, Artest would have to make a signed declaration to return to the Lakers as soon the NBA lockout ends if he indeed signs with Cheshire.
The 31-year-old averaged 8.5 points per game last season while appearing in all 82 games for the Lakers. Artest has three years and $21 million left on his contract.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin was used in this report.