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Metta World Peace reminisces in final visit to The Palace: ‘I have no choice but to laugh about it now’

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Back at The Palace for perhaps the final time, Metta World Peace recalled the moment that landed him in basketball infamy.

“I see the flashbacks sometimes. Not necessarily out here – because when the fans are there, it’s cool. But when nobody is in there, you reflect on it,” World Peace said in the locker room before Wednesday night’s game. “Sometimes you can look, and it’s like, I see exactly where everything happened.”

World Peace was still known as Ron Artest on Nov. 19, 2004, when he jumped into the stands at The Palace, precipitating perhaps the ugliest melee in NBA history. Now with the Los Angeles Lakers, he was back in Auburn Hills for Wednesday night’s game against Detroit. It was the final scheduled visit to the arena for the Lakers, since the Pistons are planning to move downtown next season.

“It’s different now. I always like to make some jokes, sometimes,” World Peace said. “I come to the building, I’ll just say like, `A lot of history here.”‘

A lot has happened since that night in 2004, when Artest was a member of the Indiana Pacers and his actions left his career at a crossroads. He was suspended for the rest of that season after the “Malice at the Palace” – but when he returned, he was able to continue what turned out to be a lengthy pro career.

Artest played a key role when the Lakers won the championship in 2010, and the following year, he even won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, an honor presented by the Professional Basketball Writers Association. Artest was honored for his work in promoting mental health awareness.

He changed his name to Metta World Peace in 2011.

Now 37, World Peace has played in only 18 games this season. He was inactive Wednesday.

As his career winds down, he feels a long way removed from the brawl against the Pistons.

“I have no choice but to laugh about it now,” he said. “There’s nothing else you can do.”

He even has nice things to say about The Palace.

“Great building, great fans. I know we had a lot of wars on the court,” he said. “The Pistons – those were the roughest games I ever played in.”

Detroit’s most recent NBA title came in 2004. Before beating the Lakers in the Finals that year, the Pistons had to go through Indiana for the conference title. Months before the brawl, Detroit eliminated the Pacers in six games.

“That series, we had them bruising,” World Peace said. “Our whole group was tough, and their whole group was tough.”

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Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge nails three from one knee during warmups (VIDEO)

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Take that Stephen Curry.

Gregg Popovich would pull him so fast he’d look like a fidget spinner if he tried this in a game, but during warmups before Game 4 Monday night LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a deep three from one knee.

If Aldridge is taking a lot of threes that’s not a good sign for the Spurs, but we’ll see if he can have a big night and keep the Spurs alive in this series.

Stephen Curry drains shots from near half court during warmups like they’re layups

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Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.

Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.

We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.

Gregg Popovich makes it official: No Kawhi Leonard for Game 4

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This was expected. It still sucks to hear.

Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.

Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.

San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.

Report: Orlando hires Toronto GM Jeff Weltman to be president of basketball operations

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In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.

Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.

Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.

Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.

Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.

That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as

Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.

Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.

He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.