Ron Artest 'definitely' going to UK
He doesn't have a contract yet, but Ron Artest says he will play for the British Basketball League's Cheshire Jets during the NBA lockout.
"I'm definitely going to play for the Jets," the Los Angeles Lakers forward told the Los Angeles Times Thursday night. "I'm definitely going to play for the Jets."
The Jets have offered to help Artest promote his music and movie interests in the United Kingdom because they reportedly can pay him only $1,500 to $2,500 per month for playing basketball.
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But Artest apparently wasn't looking for the biggest money.
"I thought, 'Where can I go to play ball and enjoy myself?' " he said, according to the Times.
A source with knowledge of the Jets' plans told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that the team is even trying to find Artest a role on a British soap opera.
"I went on Jimmy Kimmel in my underwear, so, of course I would do a soap opera," Artest said, according to the newspaper. "Hands down. When they told me I had the opportunity and asked if I wanted to do a soap opera, I said, 'Of course, man.' I'm not going to run away. When I was a kid, I wanted to be on TV. Why would I run away from being on TV?"
The Jets' season runs from Sept. 30 through April 22, but Artest would not join the team until November. He plans to play with a Finnish team, the Loimaa Bisons, for a week in September. He also told the newspaper that he will spend that week hosting comedy shows and promoting mental health issues.
"One reason I want to go to Finland is it's the cleanest country in the world," Artest said, according to the Times. "I want to experience that. I'm amazed by that. ... That's the future. I think I want to come back to America with that experience. I want to tell everyone my experience about how they're treating the Earth. It's very important to me."
Artest said he was flattered that teams were courting him to play overseas and was asked why he is choosing a relatively unknown team instead of following the likes of Deron Williams to the Euroleague and its big bucks.
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"If people want to play the best defensive player of the game, come to the U.K. I'm going to be right there," Artest said, according to the newspaper. "I'm not chasing anybody. If teams want to play one of the best defenders in the history of the NBA on the wing, come to the U.K. I'll be right there. I'm going to be right there. I'm not going to other countries. I'm from New York City. I play in L.A. U.K is a big country. I'm going to fit right in.
"I'm going to play hard. If people want to play against Ron Artest, play basketball and not chase the money and play passionate basketball against Ron Artest, come to the U.K. I'm going to be there and we're going to be going hard."
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.
Artest compared joining the Jets to taking a pay cut to play for the Lakers two years ago.
"If I go play somewhere, I have to enjoy it," Artest said, according to the Times. "If I'm not going to enjoy the game, I'm not going. ... Right now I'm really happy with the passion of the team. I'm really happy with the passion of the league. It's not the best league in Europe. But it's a league that has potential. I'm looking forward to being a part of a start."
Information from ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein and ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin was used in this report.