Larry Bird Expresses Betrayal Over Trading Metta Sandiford-Artest

Pacers' Dilemma: Managing Team Dynamics and Expectations/

by Nouman Rasool
Larry Bird Expresses Betrayal Over Trading Metta Sandiford-Artest
© Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In a stunning turn of events back in December 2005, the Indiana Pacers' landscape shifted dramatically when forward Metta Sandiford-Artest, previously known as Ron Artest, demanded a trade, leaving team president Larry Bird grappling with feelings of betrayal.

Artest's decision was particularly impactful given his critical role in the team's dynamic. Entering the 2005-06 NBA season, Artest was coming off a significant 86-game suspension due to his involvement in the notorious 'Malice in the Palace' incident.

However, just 16 games into the season, he expressed dissatisfaction with his role in the Pacers' offense, leading to his trade request. Bird, caught off-guard by the request, expressed his disappointment to NBC Sports: "I don't know if this is the right wording, but I felt betrayed," he said.

"We're disappointed. Things happen, maybe it's a good thing. He's a very talented player. I always liked working with him and how he went about things on the basketball court. He's a top-12 player in the league, but we're in a situation where we have to move on." Following Artest's public trade request, the NBA fined him $10,000, and the Pacers placed him on the inactive list.

During his shortened season, Artest averaged 19.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.6 steals across 37.7 minutes per game. The Pacers held a 10-6 record in those games.

Bird on Artest's Frustration

Bird elaborated on Artest's frustration: "Ronnie thinks if we lose, we would have won the game if he had the ball every time.

The offense bogs down at times, but it's still a great offense. He held the ball a lot of times. Nothing frustrated me more than him not rebounding, but I didn't go out in the public and say anything." In January 2006, the Pacers traded Artest to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Peja Stojakovic.

Despite this seeming like a fulfillment of his wish, Artest later revealed on the Byron Scott podcast that his mental state was not optimal at the time. "So they traded me to Sac, I got to Sac and I'm 273 pounds," Artest recounted.

"And I told coach Adelman 'I really appreciate you giving me a shot, if you could bring me off the bench maybe not even play me, if we could work something out like that would be great' Because my mind's not in it right now.

I kind of wanted to sneak out of the league. Coach Adelman said 'We are going to go as far as you take us Ron' I said 'Coach I don't have it, I'm 273 pounds, what am I going to give you?'" After some reflection, Artest decided to give his best while with the Kings.

He not only led them to the playoffs that year but also earned a spot on the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the second time in his career, marking a significant turnaround from his tumultuous departure from the Pacers.