INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana forward Ron Artest challenged Bruce Bowen to a game of one-on-one for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award Tuesday, one day after Spurs coach Gregg Popovich criticized Artest and Pacers coach Rick Carlisle.
"Tell his coach, 'Let's play one-on-one for the award,"' Artest said after practice. "I'll give it to him if he can beat me."
Popovich appeared Monday on a San Antonio radio station and said Bowen was more deserving of the award, which Artest won by a wide margin. Bowen finished fourth in the voting.
"Bruce guards the best player on the other team almost every single night," Popovich said. "Artest doesn't do that. Artest just looks the part. He looks like a big, tough guy. He whacks and gets knocked out of the game once in a while."
Popovich also criticized Carlisle for openly campaigning for his player. Carlisle called voting members of the media to lobby for his player and had two assistants break down film of Artest to come up with supporting statistics.
Carlisle said the project showed that Artest held opponents to an average of 9.4 shots and 8.1 points a game when he was matched up one-on-one. The NBA used those numbers when announcing Artest as the winner.
"What a bunch of baloney," Popovich said. "Totally unsubstantiated stats put out by Indiana. The media bought it and then the NBA printed those stats. I am amazed by that.
"We'll never do that," Popovich said of the campaign. "It's not our style. It makes no sense. And we'll certainly not throw out stats that are totally unsubstantiated. There's no way to substantiate them. It's like grabbing four guys off the street and putting them in a film room and saying to come up with some stats on this guy.
"It's just a joke and it really angered me when I saw that the NBA actually printed those stats when they announced the media's choice of Defensive Player of the Year as if they were real stats. There is no such stat."
The comments were posted on a San Antonio television station's Web site and didn't take long to find their way to Indiana, where the Pacers are awaiting the outcome of the Miami-New Orleans series after their four-game sweep of the Boston Celtics in the first round.
Artest said he wished Popovich would have spoken to him directly rather than commenting through the media.
"It's not hard to get in touch with me," Artest said. "All you have to do is call the Pacers office and ask for my phone number. You can speak to me instead of going to the papers."
Carlisle said he thought Popovich never would have made the remarks had he known they would make their way to the Internet.
"I understand where Pop's coming from," Carlisle said. "He has a strong belief in his player and obviously I have a strong belief in mine."
As for his campaigning, Carlisle pointed to the NBA All-Defensive team announced Monday. Coaches vote for the teams, not the media, and Artest's 26 first-team votes were more than any other player. Bowen was also named to the first team, receiving 18 votes.
"The one thing I will agree with Pop on is that the coaches' vote is the most important," Carlisle said. "In the coaches' vote, Ron was clearly the highest vote-getter. It really should make any arguments moot on who the best defensive player was."
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