Make no mistake about it. To a man, there are a few Warriors who will tell you in a heartbeat they'd love to have Indiana Pacers small forward Ron Artest as a teammate.
"(Expletive) yeah," Warriors guard Jason Richardson said. "He's one of the top players in this league. To get a guy like that ..."
Artest has been a hot topic around the league since the Pacers revealed Monday they are looking to deal the embattled All-Star after his public trade request. Warriors executive vice president Chris Mullin has a good relationship with Indiana's CEO and president Donnie Walsh, who traded for Mullin near the end of his playing career and groomed Mullin for a move to the front office.
Rumors and speculation had made its way to the Warriors locker room prior to Tuesday's game. One player said he was told of a scenario of the Warriors sending small forward Mike Dunleavy and center Adonal Foyle to the Pacers for Artest and center Jeff Foster, whom the Warriors drafted in the first round (No. 21) of the 1999 draft and immediately traded his rights to Indiana for the rights to guard Vonteego Cummings and a future pick.
The numbers match, as the Pacers' pair will earn $11.8 million this season and the Warriors' pair will make $11.9 million. Because both teams are over the salary cap, the contracts only have to come to within 25 percent of each other instead of the usual 15 percent. Also, Dunleavy and whichever one of the Warriors' younger talents -- i.e., forward/center Andris Biedrins, forward Zarko Cabarkapa, swingman Mickael Pietrus -- Indiana wants would fit. Guard Derek Fisher could be traded straight up for Artest, although it would certainly take a draft pick or a young talent to make it worth the Pacers' while.
If the Warriors were to acquire Artest, that would give them a starting perimeter of Artest, Richardson and Baron Davis. It would also significantly improve their ability to defend the perimeter.
"He plays so hard all the time," Foyle said. "We could use that. I admire anyone who plays like that."