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ARTEST: FREE AGENTS 'SCARED' OF NY LOS ANGELES - Lakers forward Ron Artest thinks the Knicks may face a giant hurdle in July 2010, saying players are "scared" of signing with the Knicks because of the pressure, fans and negative media coverage.

Artest also revealed he wanted to sign with the Knicks when he became a free agent July 1, but never got the call from his former boss, Knicks president Donnie Walsh.

The Queensbridge native and St. John's star always aspired to wear the orange and blue, but he feels most others don't have that dream. Besides superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Knicks also have their eye on free agents Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson to sign with their league-high cap space.

In a morning shootaround rant at the Lakers complex, Artest told three New York writers, "I think people need to stop being scared and just go to New York. They're so scared of the pressure and the media. I'm like, pardon my language, but [bleep] the media and [bleep] everyone that's putting pressure on them.

"That's the one thing I hear from the players recently," added Artest, who signed with the Lakers in July. "People don't want to play in New York. They fear having a bad game, fear the fans.

"If somebody does go there, you got to be able to have a heart."

There has been a growing sentiment around the league that the Knicks could get shut out in July, partly because they may not have the supporting cast to lure a star.

"I think New York is an attractive place to play Basketball," said Lakers legendary coach Phil Jackson, who was on the Knicks' last title team in 1973.

"Do they have enough supporting cast to make it attractive for a free agent to come?" Jackson wondered. Artest thinks James is built mentally to handle the NYC scrutiny.

Artest hopes it happens, because he wants to face the Knicks for the championship.

"I know [LeBron] could," Artest said. "It's going to be huge. It would be a huge thing to see L.A. and New York in the championship.

"Someone's going to New York."

In their worst draft mistake in history, the Knicks bypassed Artest for Frederic Weis in 1999, afraid Artest would crack under the pressure in New York despite being a N.Y. native.

"If I wanted to play for the Knicks , I wasn't going to feel pressure," Artest said. "People are scared to go there. You know how crazy it is in New York. The media, when you have a bad game, and that pressure gets to you.

"They got to be able to say, enough of this bull, I don't care what anyone thinks of me, don't care if even the fans boo.

"If you're losing, you got to be able to take that and play."

Walsh had the mid-level exception to offer Artest but they weren't interested in even that - against giving long-term deals to protect their cap space.

Walsh was Indiana's president during the infamous brawl when Artest charged into the stands.

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Added: November 26, 2009


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