Great PR for album

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

The marketing people at Tru Warier records, which happens to be the music label owned by the Maestro of Mayhem, Ron Artest, are jumping for joy.

Hell, the boss delivered up an early Christmas present.

Friends of Artest have said that the Indiana Pacers forward is devastated over his season suspension brought down by NBA president David Stern for his part in a brawl in the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills last week.

Are you kidding? This is the guy who asked for an early vacation only last week, so he could have time to hype his soon-to-be-released CD.

And what sells rap music? To a large degree the notion that the artist is an anti-establishment bad ass who won't take garbage from anyone. The brawl plays right into Artest's hands. It's marketing heaven. Don't be surprised if they put a picture of the brawl on the cover of Artest's CD and call it something like Keeping it Real.

Sales probably will go through the roof.

That's the way it works these days. Violence and mayhem sells, particularly if it's perpetuated by the young and famous.

CULTURE HAS CHANGED

"I was watching music videos the other day, and I don't normally watch that stuff, but the culture's just changed," Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell said, in the wake of the Artest brawl. "And it's not just black kids, it's all kids, it's not just the urban kids. It's the kids in the suburbs. Hey, I live in Atlanta in the off-season, in the suburbs, and you know what? They listen to rap music, their cars are jumping up and down. That's just how it is."

A lot of people (that is, if reporters can be considered people) talk about how NBA players live outside the realm of the real world and how they have become isolated from regular society by surrounding themselves with posses, Bentleys and beach houses while dropping $15,000 for a night's entertainment at strip joints.

Well, perhaps that's not so surprising given the leadership of the NBA Players' Association. NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter was actually mortified over the suspension levied against Artest.

"We certainly believe and support the notion that some punishment is necessary," Hunter said. "But under the circumstances, the punishment and penalties that were handed down were a bit egregious."

Under the circumstances? Let's get this straight. A 6-foot-7, 252-pound professional athlete charges into the stands and starts pounding on people because he was soaked with something, and it is "egregious" that he was slapped with a season-long suspension?

Two of Artest's teammates, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal were also slapped with 30- and 25-game suspensions respectfully for going into the stands, fists-a-swinging. To that, O'Neal's agent accused the league of singling out his player.

What part of Artest's season-long suspension does this guy not understand?

Pacers co-owner Herb Simon said he did not condone the fight, but "we do consider the action taken Sunday by the NBA to be unprecedented and inappropriate based on the circumstances."

Based on the circumstances? Did we miss something? Was Osama bin Laden in the stands?

The NBAPA plans to appeal the suspensions. Bad move. This a league that has been hammered with negative publicity over the years because of drug use, paternity suits, trade demands, whatever.

Fans are leaving in droves. A good idea for the NBAPA would be to bite the bullet and keep their mouth shut.

Hey, with his work ethic and lack of love for the game, Artest won't be a union member for long anyway.

To those who know him, Artest is really not a bad guy. In fact, according to the Indiana Pacers media guide, Artest participates in the team's Call-A-Pacer program.

Alright. What should we call him?

How about ... On second thought, forget it. Why help the guy sell more albums.

ALMA (DOESN'T) MATER

- The Vince Carter trade saga has cooled a bit because, according to league sources, the Raptors have upped their demands to the Portland Trail Blazers. The original rumour had Carter being shipped to the Blazers for Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Another rumour had Carter, Jalen Rose, Milt Palacio and Jerome Moiso heading to Oregon for Abdur-Rahim, Nick Van Excel, Derek Anderson and Vladimir Stepania. The Detroit News reported that despite reports to the contrary, the Pistons were not really interested in making a pitch for Carter, despite the fact that coach Larry Brown and assistant Phil Ford both have close ties to North Carolina, Carter's alma mater.

ROOKIE RATINGS

- The Raptors selected Rafael Araujo with the eighth overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft and the jury is still out on the big Brazilian centre, although he certainly doesn't appear to be very good. The guy selected one player up from Araujo, Duke forward Luol Deng, has been in many observer's minds the best rookie so far this season. Deng is averaging 16.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game for the dreadful Chicago Bulls. No. 1 pick, power forward Dwight Howard, is having a good season in Orlando. The No.3 pick overall, shooting guard Ben Gordon, has been a bit of a bust in Chicago. Probably the biggest surprise of has been small forward Trevor Ariza, who is averaging seven points and four steals a game for the Knicks. Ariza was selected 43rd.


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