Tuesday, September 21, 2010, 9:49 a.m.
By BERNIE WILSON
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Ron Artest of the Los Angeles Lakers is motivated to win another NBA championship because he plans to auction his ring from last season's title to raise money for mental health counseling in schools.
"I'm still searching for that first ring. I'm not going to have a ring, and I really do want a ring," Artest said during a visit to San Diego to promote an exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 21. "This one was on the house. The next one, I guess, you could say, is on me."
During an interview after the Lakers clinched the title with a Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics in June, Artest thanked his psychiatrist for helping him relax during the playoffs. He said he received counseling for a few months when he was 13, but that funding for the program dried up.
"When I grew up, mental health was something that wasn't talked about. People were scared to say they were seeing a psychologist and stuff like that. Even before the championship I was telling people I was seeing a psychiatrist. When we won the championship, it was on a much more larger scale -- 'Wow, he really said that.'"
Artest, who's trying to put his bad-boy image behind him, said he could simply display his ring in his living room or he could wear it.
"But I think it'll be more important to give back to something I believe in, which is providing kids with someone to talk to because it's so expensive. I pay for parenting counseling, marriage counseling and anger management, and it's very expensive. This will be for children of all demographics, rich or poor -- preferably the rich can pay for their own psychologists -- but it'll be a great way to help kids who don't know where they're going in their life at this point."
Artest said he's still looking for a group to partner with.
He said some celebrities and investors have offered him between 50,000 and 100,000 for the ring. But he wants to have a raffle auction so fans everywhere will have a chance to end up with it, with tickets likely going for between 1 and 3.
"The fans are going to totally smash that number," Artest said. "We're going to help as much as that ring can do. I don't know how long it will last, but I know it can help. You don't really need the money. It starts in the household anyway. It starts with the dad and the mom and the family. Make sure the family is tight. As long as that's good, I don't think you'll even need to see a psychologist, or you can keep it at a minimum. But nobody's perfect. Every family's not perfect. This is just a way I could help out, give back a little bit."
Artest has even helped Rep. Grace Napolitano push for the passage of the Mental Health in Schools Act, which would provide funding for schools across the country to set up mental health programs for students.
As for the Lakers, Artest feels they'll be better this coming season. Training camp starts Saturday.
"I still feel like I've got a lot to prove," he said. "We really need to come out with a mindset. I've got a lot to play for again this year. I'm going after my first ring.
"We're hungry. I know I am, as much as anybody else is. And you know Kobe is. Kobe's after something, I don't even know what it is. I think he's after stardom on Pluto or something," Artest said, taking off on one of his humorous tangents. "Pluto's not even a planet no more, which I'm very disturbed about. I grew up when Pluto was a planet. Now, I'm 25, I turn around and Pluto's no longer a planet. I'm going to elbow that guy in the nose. I love Pluto. Everybody loves Pluto. There's a dog named Pluto in the cartoons. I don't know how we got on that subject. We've got to see if we can get Pluto back."