by Marcel Mutoni

It could have something to do with the fact that Ron Artest is one of my favorite players in the League, or perhaps it’s my looking forward to the season finally jumping off, or maybe I’m just a sucker for pre-season fluff pieces (or all three), but there’s an article in Sunday’s Sacramento Bee that has me feeling pretty good about the 2008 Kings.

The Kings, a delightfully goofy collection of characters – they’ve got a celebrity head coach who thinks he’s still on Saturday morning TV; their best scorer not only has a strange haircut, but possesses the nastiest looking jumper you’ll ever see; and their fans actually bring cowbells to the arena – can count on a mature-sounding Ron Artest in 2008.

After spending the summer doing all kinds of charitable work, the man is in terrific shape, he’s obeying the coach, and he seems to have put the most notorious incident of his career behind him.

On the Pacers and The Brawl:

“I let [Larry] Bird down,” Artest said. “They treated me like family, you know. It was just me being egotistical and immature. But all I can do is go on. Right now I want to see the Kings getting it back, making the playoffs. I just remember it wasn’t that long ago that we were a good team.”

On the Kings:

“I have short-changed myself,” he said. “It’s time I really focus on basketball. We had talent last year and wasted it. We played like garbage, absolute garbage.

“Reggie [Theus] right. He’s asking me to not pound (dribble) the ball so much. He’s demanding that I really move the ball, and that’s going to make me a better player. He has a good feel for the game. He just tells you to do something and it works, and he holds you accountable, you know?”

Of course it’s all just talk right now; Ron-Ron will have plenty of opportunities to ram the Kings’ ship into a massive iceberg over the next seven months.

But hey, if you’re a Kings fan and your emotional leader is saying all of the right things, you have to be approaching this season with a tinge of optimism, right?