On again, off again, and still off again. From the Indianapolis Star’s Mark Montieth.

“There’s no deal,” Artest said in a telephone interview. “It’s not that I don’t want to play there . . . I’m letting my agent handle things. He’s taken over things.”

Artest’s agent, Mark Stevens, was unavailable for comment.

Stevens told the Star earlier in the day that a deal had been reached, pending league approval.

Artest said he is not planning to refuse a trade, but wants to speak with prospective teams first.

“I just want to meet with team officials of whichever team I’m headed to,” he said. “I want to play, but I’m following the rules I have to follow. If I have to sit out, I sit out the season.”

It seems as though Artest thinks he has veto rights over a trade that doesn’t require his approval. But unlike Jim Gray, it’s pretty hard to muster up outrage over such a misunderstanding. This is a player who thought nothing of asking for a mid-season sabbatical in ’04, nor could he comprehend the shitstorm he unleashed with his since-rescinded trade request. If sports-yack radio wants to continue to portray Artest as Public Enemy No. 1, well, what else is new? I think you could triple his salary and he’d still be exploited .