Pacers F Ron Artest said yesterday that he asked Coach Rick Carlisle for time off because of a busy schedule that included promoting a soon-to-be released rap album, which led to his two-game benching.

Artest held a short news conference before last night's game against the Clippers, and in his usual ambiguous manner, tried to explain why he was benched.

Artest said that he asked Carlisle for as much as a month off to heal his aching body and recover from a particularly busy schedule.

"My body has been aching, I was going to take some time off and I said it the wrong way," Artest said. "Everything that happened wasn't too negative. I kind of surprised the team by wanting to take some games off, just to get back together, maybe stay home for a little bit, rest a little bit and come back."

He certainly surprised Carlisle, who said Tuesday that the situation "compromised the integrity of the team. It's a private team matter, and I'm going to leave it at that."

"I don't know what that means," Artest said. "They probably expected a little more; expected me to play every game. Everybody's different. It's early in the season, so I feel like I could take some time off early and be ready for the long stretch."

So Carlisle benched Artest for Tuesday night's win over the Timberwolves and last night's game. It is not a suspension, and Artest will not lose any salary. He will return tomorrow at Philadelphia.

The 24-year-old is scheduled to release his debut rap album later this month and has been spending a lot of time making promotional appearances.

* MCGRADY HURTING: Tracy McGrady missed most of the Rockets' practice yesterday because of nagging hip and groin injuries, though the two-time NBA scoring champion could still play tonight against the Timberwolves. He left midway through the third quarter of Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies with strains in his right hip and groin and didn't return.

* MOVES: The Lakers activated F-C Slava Medvedenko from the injured list, making room on their 12-man roster by placing F Jumaine Jones on the injured list. . . . F Shandon Anderson was waived by the Knicks, who tried repeatedly to trade him. Anderson appeared in one game this season. . . . Seven-time NBA rebounding champion Dennis Rodman signed a contract with the Orange County Crush of the ABA.

-- From News Services