Did Yao Throw Artest Under The Bus To Bucher?

There’s been a palpable euphoria here in Los Angeles since the Lakers locked down free agent Ron Artest last week. Purple (& Gold) Kool-aiders of course love the deal, but Wednesday ESPN NBA reporter Ric Bucher quietly made a serious claim about Artest on middle-of-the-night national radio that might delight the Laker haters among you.

Yao Ming Ric Bucher

(Co-Author of Yao biography says Rockets covered up Artest’s bad behavior)

While talking to late-night, White Castle drive-thru companion and ESPN Radio host Jason Smith, Bucher said that Artest has not cleaned up his act as a person.

So why don’t we all know that Artest hasn’t (apparently) changed his volatile, oft-erratic ways off the court? According to Bucher, the Rockets were exceptional at covering up Artest’s alleged indiscretions.

Hmmm. Now where do you think Bucher would get that kind of information?

Bucher recently collaborated on a book with Yao Ming about the Chinese hoop star’s life, so is it safe to assume that Yao may have spilled the beans on Ron-Ron’s supposed off-court indiscretions?

Here’s Bucher’s exact comments (audio link) on ESPN Radio Wednesday night: “Based on the behind-the-scenes stories that I’ve heard in Houston, and the innuendo, we just didn’t hear about stuff. It’s not that Artest has changed his stripes.

They (Rockets) simply did a good job of not letting it become public.

Wha? Artest was effectively a model citizen on the court this season, so what exactly is the “behind-the-scenes innuendo” to which Bucher refers?

Domestic abuse? Animal Abuse? (See Sacramento.)

Why now is Bucher bringing this up, with the season long over? If he knew something, why didn’t he investigate and report on it while Artest was still in Houston? Artest’s off-court problems in Sacramento included brushes with local law enforcement, so if the Rockets covered that up, that’s a pretty serious charge.

Now, if you’re ESPN Radio host Jason Smith, and you know Bucher’s obvious connection to Yao, wouldn’t you ask Bucher if that’s where he got the information to formulate such an opinion?

Of course not! Because on sports radio, every day is opposite day! Smith did zero followup to Bucher’s remarks.

In the end, for my purposes, this really isn’t about whether Yao ratted out Ron-Ron or not. It’s the gratuitous, flaccid flail that Bucher took at Artest. If Bucher had solid, sourced info on the subject, then I’m all ears. But nothing Bucher said that night leads me to believe that Artest isn’t making progress on cleaning up his off-court act.

Especially when you consider Bucher’s track record of accuracy.