Artest apologizes for Palace brawl
LOS ANGELES -- In typical zany Ron Artest fashion, he celebrated his first championship in a Hollywood club late Thursday night, still dressed in the gold-and-purple uniform he starred in that night.
The Queensbridge product was the most jubilant Laker in the championship's aftermath. But his first order of business when he got to the interview podium was apologizing to Knicks president Donnie Walsh, the former Pacers leader, for the Motown brawl -- a confessional that came out of nowhere. Call it "Late-Night with Ron, Unplugged."
After done clowning around, he took the first question of his press conference and ran with it all the way to stands of The Palace -- a horrifying incident that wrecked the Pacers' franchise and nearly his career.
"I bailed out on my Indiana team," Artest said. "I was so young, so egotistical and I bailed out on Donnie, Larry [Bird], Jermaine [O'Neal], [Jamaal] Tinsley, [Jeff] Foster, who never bailed out. I feel sometimes like a coward when I see those guys. Because it's like, man, I'm on the Lakers and had a chance to win with you guys. I never thought God would put me in this situation again because of that."
His brother, Daniel, said the apology did not come out of left field.
"Ron always felt like that since everything happened," Daniel told The Post yesterday. "He was waiting for a time to say it. Everybody knows Ron wasn't as mature as he is now."
After going from goat to Hollywood hero in these NBA Finals, Artest wasn't about to act too mature. He kissed the golden trophy in the corner of the locker room, surrounded by his mother, father, wife, four kids and brother, then gave an interview-room performance for the ages.
"Everything he went through, you can call him a bunch of names, you can also add champion to that list," said Daniel Artest, who also became a tempest during the Finals with his controversial tweets. "And he was a big part of it, too. It's euphoric."
Artest bailed out Kobe Bryant with a 20-point, five-steal outing and kidded the Lakers superstar who passed him the ball on the right wing for his pivotal 3-point laser that sent the Lakers into a six-point lead with 1:01 left and to their 16th title.
"He never passes me the ball and he passed me the ball," Artest said. "Kobe passed me the ball! And I shot a three."
Artest joked he could hear Phil Jackson say to himself not to shoot it.
"He's a Zen Master so he can speak to you and you hear him in your head, don't shoot, don't shoot," Artest cracked.
Daniel Artest created a firestorm by taking a shot at Trevor Ariza while defending his brother, who was being torched during the series. Artest was the lone addition to the Lakers' 2009 title team, replacing Ariza. The former Knick took offense and Daniel Artest and Ariza went back and forth with each other on twitter.
"You can't compare Ron's career to Trevor's," Daniel said. "If it wasn't for Ron in the first round, Oklahoma would've beaten them. Kevin Durant was on fire."
Artest kept saying he couldn't wait to "go to the club."
And so he did. In all purple and gold.