Metta World Chaos knew he did wrong. Knew he shouldn't have thrown the elbow that sent James Harden crumbling to the court and Chaos' reputation back to the gutter.
So says Fran Fraschilla.
Everybody has a mother, and every athlete has a coach. Chaos' coach is our old pal who now is ESPN's voice of Big 12 basketball but once revived a storied program by recruiting Ron Artest to St. John's University.
You're not going to like this, not going to like it one bit, but Fraschilla speaks highly of his former ballplayer.
“His greatest strength is his biggest weakness,” Fraschilla said of Oklahoma's Public Enemy No. 1. “He is an intense competitor. Almost all of Ron's issues are on the court. Very rarely is there an off-the-court incident with Ron.
“He's not (Charles) Barkley, throwing someone through a plate-glass window. Most of his issues have been borne out of this intense competitiveness. Which has both fueled his fire and gotten him in trouble.”
Chaos soon could face the masses who despise him so. If his Los Angeles Lakers defeat Denver in a Western Conference playoff series — Game 6 was late Thursday night — the Lakers will open the West semifinals either Saturday night or Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The reception for Chaos in Oklahoma City, no matter when it is, won't be warm. But like those mothers of terrorists who recall pleasant memories from their sons' childhoods, Fraschilla speaks well of his one-time protégé.
“He has an incredible heart,” Fraschilla said. “Stuff behind the scenes, off the court, taking care of people who are less fortunate, lot of untold stories about Ron beneath the surface.
“Most people who know him think of him basically as a good guy.”
That's a hard sell, watching Chaos brawl in Auburn Hills eight years ago, or clothesline J.J. Barea last spring, or deck Harden, or even go on Conan O'Brien's show this week and fail to fall on the sword.
“He knows right from wrong,” Fraschilla said. “He didn't show it, but he knew in his heart he was wrong. But he's a warrior and a tough-guy on the court, so he couldn't let anyone see it.”
Fraschilla has watched Chaos grow up to whatever extent he has.
Artest was raised in Queensbridge, the massive New York housing project just across the East River in Queens, while Fraschilla coached at Manhattan College and St. John's.
Artest came from a tough family; his dad was a former boxer. “You're in survival mode, growing up in Queensbridge,” Fraschilla said.
Artest went to La Salle Academy, where in spring 1997 he was one of the two best prep players in New York, along with Lamar Odom.
“He's very proud of coming from Queensbridge,” Fraschilla said. “Very rough, tough section of New York City. ‘Fought' is probably not a good word, but he fought his way out of the projects to become a good college player and have somewhat of a long, productive career.
“That fire of getting out of the projects has always driven him.”
Fraschilla sold Artest on reviving St. John's, a program that had gone four straight years without an NCAA Tournament berth.
“The program needed a jump-start, and Ron was the perfect guy,” Fraschilla said. “His energy level and intensity was exactly what we needed. He helped rejuvenate St. John's basketball.”
Fraschilla said Artest “never really crossed the line with us … I used to beat him to the punch.”
Fraschilla said he could see outbursts coming. Would throw Artest out of practice. Benched him for a big game at Louisville for arriving a minute or two late.
“As much as I cared about him, thought a lot about him, I wanted him to make sure he knew who the boss was,” Fraschilla said. “I played the bad cop with him, just to let him know who was in charge.”
You could argue that there are few bad cops in the NBA. Maybe if Artest had landed in San Antonio and played for Gregg Popovich, things would be different. Instead, he has played for Tim Floyd, Isiah Thomas, Rick Carlisle, Rick Adelman, Reggie Theus, Phil Jackson and Mike Brown.
Some really good coaches on that list. Not a lot of bad cops.
Artest has acknowledged mental health problems. He's embraced mental health issues as a charitable cause.
“Mental issues I'd leave for someone else to determine,” Fraschilla said. “I can't diagnose things about him I'm not qualified to know.
“All I know, his intensity level on the court is through the roof. His intensity level has made him the player he's been the last 16 years I've known him. Also gets him in trouble. No doubt.
“He rubs off on everybody. If you're a teammate of Ron's, you felt like you were going into a street fight with Superman on your side.”
Trouble is, not everyone can be Chaos' teammate. And in a Thunder-Laker series, talking about the good side of Oklahoma's enemy of the state is whistling into the wind.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.