By Marc Stein
One natural reaction to The Malice of Auburn Hills and its many fallouts is to wonder whether Ron Artest will actually want to play in the NBA again someday, remembering his retirement musings just days before all the mayhem.
Not for me, though. For two reasons:
1) Making predictions about what Artest might do next is arguably the height of NBA futility.
2) It makes more sense to fret about Larry Brown's future, at 64, than Artest's.
Rasheed Wallace is one player who seems to have come back, post-title, a little fat and sassy.
The Detroit Pistons knew when they gave Brown a five-year contract that there was little chance he'd be there for all of it, given his age -- and his history of changing addresses. Yet that pessimism is gathering momentum to the point where you -- and the Pistons -- can legitimately wonder whether Brown will see out even half of it.
Brown, remember, admitted after winning the championship in June that he thought it might be time to hobble off -- and that's when he was (allegedly) happy. Since his Pistons started the dismantling of the Lakers in a Finals rout, Brown has (a) suffered through a torturous summer with Team USA that made his title honeymoon the shortest in league history; (b) undergone hip surgery; and (c) watched helplessly as his players and their fans took part in the ugliest on-court incident in NBA annals.
Oh, yeah: Detroit is also just 5-5 this season . . . and lucky to be 1-1 against expansion Charlotte. The Pistons were suffering from a defensive/passion malaise even before Friday's downer and Big Ben's suspension.
And Larry being Larry, he won't even try to mask his misery. "I'm not really excited about doing my job right now," he admitted the other night.
Pistons president Joe Dumars says our concerns are misplaced, insisting that Brown still has much to offer. "I'm very comfortable with Larry and what he has to do to make sure he's OK," Dumars said. "I believe he has a tremendous amount of passion for coaching."
Dumars has to hope that still applies, because Brown has to be the spark that jolts some energy into this team. As covered in Friday's Stein Line, one of Brown's rival coaches recently told me: "Not having Larry on their asses is probably worth 10 points a game to the opponent." The only Piston who could possibly benefit from Brown's absence is Darko Milicic, who doesn't get to play at all under the Larry regime.
I'm hearing . . .
That John Kuester left Larry Brown's bench to go to New Jersey in the off-season because the Nets offered a long-term contract and Larry told Kuester he had to take it -- because Brown couldn't guarantee how long he's staying with the Pistons. . . .
And that Cleveland, at this point, is not planning extra security measures for Carlos Boozer's March 15 return in the wake of Friday's Pacers-Pistons melee. Things could change, of course, if the league steps in and gives them specific directives, but the Cavs contend that they already devote above-the-norm resources to keep Gund Arena safe. . . .
And that it wasn't just good money that convinced Byron Scott to take the New Orleans job instead of waiting to see if he'd have a shot at replacing Phil Jackson with the Lakers. Scott is 1-8 with the Hornets, but he was guaranteed safety into next season at the very least by George Shinn -- no matter what happens on the court this season -- because the Hornets' owner hasn't had a coach last for more than one season since moving the club to New Orleans.
How do you handle unruly fans? Again, Commish: Let's look to world football.
On Sunday, two spectators attending a game in the English Premiership racially abused Dwight Yorke as he warmed up on the sidelines. Yorke and the fans exchanged words behind the goal, but it didn't go any farther. Fortunately.
The troublemakers were nonetheless forced to appear in court Wednesday, and one pleaded guilty. The penalty? A fine of nearly $2,000 . . . and a five-year ban from attending matches anywhere.
That's how it's done.
Grant Hill's comeback isn't just inspiring. In the case of Dwight Howard, it's enabling.
When the Magic drafted Howard, knowing Tracy McGrady was a goner and fearing Hill would never play again, it appeared that Orlando would be forced to ask the teen to be a savior straightaway.
Not now, so long as Hill's ankle holds up. Hill's presence has made Steve Francis better than Stevie (New) Franchise has ever been. The two of them, furthermore, do so much with the ball that Howard doesn't have to worry about anything except rebounding and energy.
You see the results: Howard's next game with fewer than 10 rebounds will be his first.
Someone had to point this out to me, naturally, since my football viewing on Thanksgiving will be Brentford-Bristol City in the FA Cup. But I'm guessing at least a few of you out there have noticed what the NFL is serving up at 12:30 p.m. EST.
Yup. Indianapolis at Detroit.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.