Troubled throughout his five-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Nick Van Exel was tardy on his first visit to Denver. He spent the rest of Sunday trying to alter his bad-boy image.

The veteran point guard - who came to the Nuggets in a draft-day deal that sent forward Tony Battie and first-round draft pick Tyronn Lue to the Lakers - was nearly four hours late for Sunday's news conference."I missed my flight," Van Exel said. "I was told the flight was delayed and I didn't want it to delay me."

Van Exel missed the flight out of Las Vegas, where he had received a comeback player of the year award.

"I stayed in the casino," he said.

Van Exel, who averaged 13.9 points and 6.9 assists last season, made it to the news conference and was able to later take a team physical only after the Nuggets sent a private jet to Las Vegas.

Van Exel, who has one year remaining on a five-year, $10.5 million contract which paid him $1.9 million last season, was said to be balking at coming to the Nuggets.

The question for Denver is what player they will be getting. Will it be the one with baggage who argued with coach Del Harris on the bench in the 1997 playoffs and was suspended for the final seven games of the 1995-96 season for shoving an official in a game in Denver, or the player that was 27-of-42 from 3-point range in games played at McNichols Arena?

"People that know me know the kind of person that I am, and I will be all business when I start playing," said Van Exel, who lost his starting job late last season to Derek Fisher. "The last argument I had with Del Harris, I didn't think it was fair. The situation was blown out of proportion and I was not the fault."

There is also the matter of Van Exel's chronically bad knees.

"My knees are fine and are holding up great," Van Exel said. "I have no pain in them and I don't have a problem."