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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.”

Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.