Ron Artest's agent: insurance is obstacle to Cheshire Jets deal
Though Artest declared his intention to The Times two weeks ago that he's "definitely going to play" for the British Basketball League's Cheshire Jets, his agent, David Bauman, said the team hasn't offered Artest insurance. That issue, Bauman said, poses a "major problem" and would prevent the Lakers forward from joining the team.
"It’s still on the table," Bauman said Tuesday in a phone interview. "But again, this insurance thing is a significant and a serious obstacle for any of the NBA players."
Artest has a three-year, $21.8-million deal remaining with the Lakers. Without insurance, Artest could risk his contract becoming void should he suffer an injury with another team during the NBA lockout. That issue, said Bauman, also partly explains why Artest postponed his trip to the U.K. to speak with Jets officials, hold a news conference, mingle with fans and, in his words, "make sure it's a good fit." Tweeted Artest: “Uk Sorry I couldn’t make it this week Can’t wait to meet the JETS!!!!”
Meanwhile, Jets director Pete Hawkins told the Cheshire Chronicle last week that the deal isn’t dead, saying: “The next few days we need to work really hard. Insurance was always an issue from the outset, but we are still trying hard to ensure Ron has the protection he needs to play."
Artest sounded unconcerned when that issue was brought up to him last month while sitting backstage of the Brea Improv Comedy Club: "You just have to work. If you get fired, you have to get work. If you're not getting paid, you have to find a job." Artest also remained mum on whether insurance might remain an issue during a 13-minute phone interview two weeks ago with The Times when he declared, "I'm definitely going to play for the Jets." Bauman, who had said as early as late June that Artest would need insurance before accepting an overseas offer, was asked whether he had informed Artest about his concerns as Artest publicly expressed enthusiasm for playing in the U.K.
"I think you can conclude that," Bauman said. "Obviously, my advice was not to do it."
Bauman brought up concerns to ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin shortly after Artest had revealed his interest in playing for Cheshire to The Times' Bill Plaschke. Bauman, who hadn't returned repeated calls for comment when the Cheshire Jets publicly expressed interest in signing Artest, shot down the notion, however, that Artest acted presumptuously.
"Let me ask you a question. When the Cheshire Jets were giving quotes saying that I’ve spoken to Ron’s agent and we’re close to a deal, if you Google my name and you Google 'Ron Artest’s agent,' everyone knows I’m his agent," Bauman said. "I didn’t receive one phone call, one email of communication or one fax, nothing from these people. Quickly, those quotes were then changed to say we’ve been in touch with Ron and his people. I didn’t give any quotes that we had a deal done. That’s where we are. If the Cheshire Jets wanted to contact me, they would. They know what they had agreed to in a broadstroke was something very much in their favor and very much put Ron at risk.
"I’m not going to lie to anybody," Bauman continued. "Ron fully intends to play for the Jets. Once all the information trickled in and we had a good pow-wow and it was very apparent there was a $21-million risk to agreeing to a deal like this, that’s when we started to slow things down a little bit."
That's why Bauman said he's advised Artest to wait to see how the negotiations surrounding the pending collective bargaining agreement turn out, arguing to wait until the Lakers' scheduled training camp approaches in late September before pursuing overseas offers. Bauman also declined to address whether Artest will follow through on his plan to play an unspecified number of exhibition games with the Loimaa Bisons, a professional basketball team in Finland, during one week in September.
"Ron is going to evaluate all of the opportunities that he has," Bauman said. "Ron is going to make the best business decision for himself and for his career. It’s a process. It’s nothing that has to be done now."
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Photo: Ron Artest. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press / October 13, 2010