Artest Back at Practice, Jackson Ready to Play

This past Monday, Indiana Pacer forward’s Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson returned to practice after facing suspension for their altercations with Detroit Piston fans on Nov. 19.

Jackson and Artest were suspended for running into the stands and resorting to fisticuffs with the Detroit fans after one of them threw a cup filled with a beverage at Artest’s face. NBA Commissioner David Stern after seeing the brawl suspended Artest for the remainder of the season and Jackson was suspended for 30 games.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) at first did not want Jackson and Pacers forward/center Jermaine O’Neal, whose 25-game suspension was reduced to 15 after an arbitrator hearing, to return to practice according to a report from msn.foxsports.com. As their return dates grew closer though, the NBA allowed them to begin practicing with the team again.

Despite both players returning to practice on Monday, Donnie Walsh, CEO of the Pacers wanted to make clear that Artest’s return to the court was not a sign that his season long suspension was going to be reduced.

“This in no way should be taken as an indication that he will return this season,” Walsh said in an msn.foxsports.com report. “It has nothing to do with him being reinstated.”

The Pacers, according to msn.foxsports.com did say though that having Artest back at practice is a whole lot better than not having him at all.

“Even to think about having him back in that uniform with the No. 91 jersey on , that’s a definitely making us happy, but that’s frightening a whole lot of teams,” said Jackson, who started Wednesday night at the Boston Celtics.

“Obviously sitting at home, watching media, watching the news… he needs to be around his team with people who care about him and people who support him.”

Jackson, who returned to game action this past Wednesday at the Boston Celtics, says he has learned a valuable lesson, according to msn.foxsports.com

“I have to watch it,” said Jackson who scored 17 points on 6 for 18 shooting in the Pacers 10-86 loss in Boston Wednesday night. “Sometimes I get too fired up. I don’t want to hold my emotions back, but I want to be smart out there on the court. That’s what I have to do for my team to succeed is to be smarter on and off the court and try not to get sidetracked by all the other stuff that happens and just try to play basketball and help the team.”

As Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said, according to a report from msn.foxsports.com, having Jackson back brings better depth to the team as well as competitive spirit.

“He’s one of our top competitors,” Carlisle said. “Getting him back helps us on the floor, helps us with our depth chart, but it also gives us an extra spark and that’s important, because he’s not only a good player, he’s a guy that has that competitive fire that every team needs.”  

The Pacers are hoping that Jackson’s return can help the team get out of their recent slump which has seen them lose six of their last 10 games. 

“Having him back is not going to solve every problem we have, but it’s certainly going to be an important part of the solution to some of our issues of consistency and energy loss,” Carlisle said, according to msn.foxsports.com.

Indiana, which has lost on the second night of back-to-back games in their last four chances, will try to put the skids on that as they will host the Detroit Pistons at Conseco Fieldhouse Thursday.