When Ron Artest first came to town I ignored him, wanting nothing to do with a wacko.

"A lot of people do that," Artest says.

I thought he was just a thug.

"I tell people who call me a thug you're calling the right person a thug," he says. "I was raised to be a thug."

Others insist he's a sweetheart, although Ron Artest and sweetheart don't really seem to go together.

But here we are in a Detroit suburb, the wacko thug more sensitive, insightful and sweet than advertised. Metta World Peace is now nine years removed from the Malice at the Palace.

"The brawl," as Artest calls it, the day he flipped out and went storming into the stands looking for the fan who hit him with a drink.

We agree to meet over lunch along with John Green, the fan with the great aim who threw a cup of Diet Coke at Artest and won a $50 bet and 30 days in jail for doing so.

We can't meet Sunday when the Lakers play the Pistons because Green is still banned from attending events at the Palace of Auburn Hills.