Along with Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin, Ron Artest is finally back from injury - and just in time to return to the site of the ugly brawl he helped incite over three years ago.
Artest will make his second trip to Detroit since the brawl on Friday as the Sacramento Kings visit the Pistons.
Artest charged into the stands in Detroit on Nov. 19, 2004 while with Indiana, helping spark a brawl between the Pacers and the fans that has gone down as perhaps the most notorious in U.S. sports history. Artest was suspended for the rest of that season - 73 games, plus the playoffs - and was sentenced to one year of probation and 60 hours of community service after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault charges.
The fan who was accused of throwing a cup at Artest to help start the brawl, John Green, was banned from the Palace of Auburn Hills. Green was convicted of punching Artest and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years' probation.
Artest, traded to Sacramento in Jan. 2006, returned to Detroit for the first time on Jan. 20 last season. He scored 14 points in the Kings' 91-74 loss and was booed and jeered mercilessly by Pistons' fans.
"It was fine coming back," Artest said after that game. "It was just another game."
Artest returned to the floor on Wednesday after missing nine games because of right elbow surgery. Bibby, who had surgery in November to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, more notably made his season debut, but the Kings (15-22) lost 116-91 to Toronto.
Artest, who came in averaging 19.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 19 games, played 29 minutes and had four points, while Bibby, who averaged 17.1 points and 4.7 assists last season, had 19 points in 29 minutes. Both came off the bench.
"It is good to get back on the court," Bibby said. "I didn't want the welcome to be like that, but we have to get used to playing with each other again and get everybody on the same page."
Martin, who leads the team with 25.2 points per game, had 22 in his third game back after missing 17 games with a sore groin. He was coming off a 39-point performance in Monday's win over Dallas
The Kings have lost three straight road games and are 4-13 away from home. They have dropped three straight in Detroit, while the Pistons have won eight of their last nine home games.
The Pistons (29-10) beat the Raptors 103-89 on Tuesday, bouncing back from a demoralizing 89-65 defeat against the woeful New York Knicks two days earlier. Richard Hamilton had a season-high 39 points, including a career-best five 3-pointers.
"I didn't really take a lot of shots against New York, so tonight I knew I needed to be aggressive," Hamilton said. "Tonight I just knew they were going to fall."
The Pistons, who own the second-best record in the NBA behind Boston, had dropped three of their previous five games.
"This was a good win for us - we feel good about this one," said Chauncey Billups, who added 20 points. "After the way we played against New York, we had to come out and make a statement."
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