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Artest explains drinking comments

December 3, 2009 |  2:41 pm

Lakers forward Ron Artest explained today why he told the Sporting News that he drank alcohol during games while playing for the Chicago Bulls earlier in his career, saying it was to reach out to youths who may be dealing with the same issues.

Lakerslogo Artest said he has a program soon to start in Los Angeles in which he’ll share his story with youths about the difficulties of fame and fortune and how it can push a person in the wrong direction. Artest told the publication that he drank Hennessy cognac during halftime of games when he played for the Bulls.

“The whole purpose of the testimony was to share problematic times in my life with the youth…,’’ Artest said after practice Thursday. “…It was mainly to just share the situation that I was going through. There are a lot of kids out there right now that are going to through the same things that I’ve gone through.”

Artest spent 2½ seasons with Chicago after being drafted as a 19-year-old out of St. John’s in 1999. He was traded to Indiana and has played in Sacramento and Houston before joining the Lakers this summer.

Artest said he has grown since his drinking days in Chicago and that he is continuing to evolve as a person.

“I was slowly cleansing myself in Sacramento,” Artest said. “I was 98% cleansed in Houston.”

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said he had not talked to Artest before practice about his revelations, but planned on doing so. Jackson said he thought the article was “blown out of context” and that “I just don’t believe that at all.”

“I just don’t think that a player can get away with that type of thing in the NBA,” Jackson said. “Somebody is going to see it. There’s going to be alcohol on your breath. It’s just not going to happen on a day-to-day basis. I know Ron said those things and I have to respect that he’s speaking the truth. But I still don’t know how far that went and if that was a once or twice occurrence.”

The NBA had planned on talking to Artest about his drinking statements and his criticism of referee Joey Crawford.

-- Broderick Turner