Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ron Artest Waived by the Lakers and Pursued by the Knicks

Waived by the Lakers and Pursued by the Knicks
by Howard Beck

Metta World Peace, better known in his youth as Ron Artest of Queensbridge, could return home to finish his N.B.A. career if the stars align this weekend.

Waived by the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, World Peace could be a free agent by late Sunday afternoon. The Knicks have interest, and a dire need for frontcourt muscle. A homecoming is possible. But it depends on several unpredictable factors, not the least of which is World Peace himself.

On Friday, World Peace told two Los Angeles reporters that he has no desire to play in the N.B.A. next season.

“I don’t really want to play for anybody,” he said, according to ESPN Los Angeles. “I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to go to China, or coach or play arena football.”

World Peace said he had spoken with Yao Ming, his former Houston Rockets teammate, about playing for the Shanghai Sharks, which Yao owns.

Given his reputation, there is no telling whether World Peace was being serious or whimsical, or perhaps just trying to scare off teams in the waiver process. He was just as cagey on Twitter, declaring, “I’m retiring and playing hockey.”

The Lakers cut World Peace under the N.B.A.’s amnesty provision, which comes with distinct waiver procedures. Teams with salary-cap room have 48 hours to bid on his services. If no bids are submitted by 5 p.m. Sunday, then he will be free to sign with any team.

As of Friday, only five teams had enough cap room to make a bid: the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. Of that group, only the Cavaliers — who just signed Andrew Bynum and are pushing to make the playoffs — seem to make sense as a potential suitor. The others are in various states of rebuilding and would hardly seem to need a 33-year-old enforcer with an eccentric reputation.

The Knicks are far over the cap and cannot make an amnesty bid. If World Peace reaches free agency, they could offer him the veteran’s minimum, about $1.4 million. Other teams could potentially offer more. In any case, World Peace will still collect the $7.7 million the Lakers owed him.

Despite his flaky reputation and his age, World Peace is still a tough, savvy defender who can hit the corner 3-pointer and is regarded as a great teammate. He has talked often about his desire to play for his hometown team, although he dismissed the notion on Friday.

“I wanted to play in New York when I was in my prime and I was young, fierce, lockdown,” he said. “Madison Square Garden, that would have been sick. But right now, China is way more adventurous for me.”

For now, the Knicks can only wait and watch and hope that, if the circumstances are right, they can give World Peace a chance — to come home. — The New York Times

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