MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- Ron Artest is pleased to see the Knicks finally having some success after so many years of awfulness. In fact, the long decade of despair had him wondering if this year's team was winning over some young fans in New York that may not have started out rooting for the Knicks, as we wrote in our new weekly print edition of the Knicks Fix in the Sunday Newsday.
"The last few years," he said, "I don't know if kids grew up Knicks fans in New York."
But the talk now is that basketball is finally making a comeback in the mecca (yes, R.J., I said "mecca", but notice I didn't say it was all the way back, just making a comeback, so there), and it's not just the Knicks. Steve Lavin's arrival in Queens has resurrected hope in St. John's, which is starting to make a long-awaited comeback of its own. That has Artest, perhaps the last legit NBA product the program produced, beaming with pride.
"It's been hard because everybody's always talking about their alma maters and I had to be quiet," Artest said at Lakers practice on Saturday. "But now I can actually say something and talk a little trash. Hopefully we can get to the Tournament."
Artest was aware of St. John's recent win over Georgetown -- always a big one -- and 10-4 start. He also knows about Lavin's blue chip recruiting class that is coming in next season. The Lakers will be in New York to play the Knicks on Feb. 11 and St. John's plays UConn at the Garden the night before. Artest won't be able to attend because he'll be in Boston to play the Celtics in the first game of a back-to-back.
While the swift decline of the program was concerning, what really bothered Artest was that the players stopped going to Alumni Hall for summer workouts, which regularly involved NBA players, especially those who were alumni.
"For some reason, guys wasn't coming in to play ball no more," he said. "When we was there, we used to be there every day and the pros would be there every day. We'd be playing with Mark Jackson, Jayson Williams and Malik Sealy and Chris Mullin every day.
"But after a while, that didn't happen, so I stopped going over there," he continued. "But I hear now they're back playing basketball in the summertime, so, hopefully, I can go over there in the summertime and get some runs when I go to New York."