Metta World Peace Smart to Play Retirement Card to Force His Way to Contender
On Wednesday, the NBA lifts its moratorium on free-agent signings and trades, meaning the flurry of moves that have happened since July began can finally commence.
Some moves will have to wait one or two days for some contractual snafus to work out and other squads will choose to wait on signing players for cap purposes—usually reserved for when a player's cap hold is less than his first-year salary of his new deal—but you'll be hearing a lot about deals becoming "official" on Wednesday.
One day later, the NBA's seven-day amnesty period begins. From July 11-17, the 13 remaining teams who have not used their amnesty provision provided by the NBA's collective bargaining agreement will have the opportunity to consider cutting players from the limited number of eligible talent.
Sweet a guy as he is, @MettaWorldPeace will be waived via amnesty by Lakers to save about $30 million, barring some late change.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) July 8, 2013
As pointed out by Ding, this is largely a cost-cutting measure by Los Angeles. The Lakers don't care about spending money over the league's luxury tax—their Time Warner deal pays them roughly eleventy billion dollars a season. The team owns the printing factory and the paper company that prints their money.
It seems, though, that they're understandably unwilling to foot a major tax bill for a non-contending team. Dwight Howard's decision to leave for the Houston Rockets sent the Lakers into decision-making mode, and World Peace is merely the first casualty. The team's payroll would have approached $100 million had Howard signed a five-year, $118 million deal with the team, putting the Lakers up a creek without a paddle come tax time.
Howard spurning Los Angeles gave management the option of getting into a more manageable tax bracket. As noted by Forbes' Kurt Badenhausen, the move will save Los Angeles around $23 million when considering World Peace's salary and the decline in the NBA's tax bracket. Those savings are somewhat negated by the signing of Chris Kaman, but the Lakers will still wind up pocketing more than double World Peace's $7.73 million salary.
That's loose change for the Lakers. They could pay World Peace's salary with pennies found on the Staples Center floor. But ridding themselves of the deal and tax bill that come along with it is understandable considering this team is headed for the lottery next season.
The implications for World Peace are a little more interesting. Pushing age 34 and 14 seasons into his NBA career, the Artist Formerly Known as Ron Artest has to be facing his career mortality. He's already well past the prime of his career, where he was the league's most dominant perimeter defender. He's also played for five NBA franchises already and isn't exactly known around the league as the easiest personality to handle.
So it's understandable that World Peace wouldn't want to just walk into any situation. It's equally fair to say that only a handful of teams will have interest in his services. World Peace has two or three years left in his career as a viable bench presence before he goes off to a lucrative career of becoming the world's first rapper/producer/children's book author. And that's only if we're being generous. World Peace shouldn't start anywhere at this point and will almost certainly struggle to find work the minute his usefulness runs out.
The thought of him finishing his career where he wants to has to be popping into his head at the moment. ESPN's Jared Zwerling has reported that World Peace "hopes to land with the Knicks" if amnestied by the Lakers. World Peace is famously from Queensbridge and played his college ball at St. John's.
New York needs bench filler, and a wing defender who can knock down corner threes and add some toughness is right around the top of that list. The Knicks would like to sign Metta for a veteran's minimum deal, per Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, which seems amenable considering he'll be getting the Lakers' money regardless.
The problem is that World Peace very likely won't get a chance to choose where he goes. Amnestied players go through a bidding process, in which teams under the salary cap have an opportunity to assume part (but not all) of the player's salary. The first option for these under-the-cap teams allows them to land talent at a premium cost. Last season the Phoenix Suns signed Luis Scola and the Dallas Mavericks grabbed Elton Brand via that process.
The process essentially strips players of their freedom. Chauncey Billups warned teams to not claim him when he was amnestied by the New York Knicks in 2011. The Los Angeles Clippers thumbed their nose at that request and brought Billups in to team with Chris Paul. If teams see an asset they like, they aren't going to hesitate making a bid—even if it upsets the player in question.
World Peace may already be having his Billups moment. Zwerling's report notes that the swingman has no interest in playing for a small-market club.
"If the Lakers do amnesty him, he might want to retire," Jose Morales, Artest's friend, said. "If one of these small-market teams picks him up, he won't be happy with that. He doesn't want to play there."
It's a claim backed up by SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria, who spoke with Ron Artest Sr. about the situation:
Ron Artest Sr., just spoke with Metta and tells @SNYtv his son says he will retire if amnestied by the Lakers. Story coming.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) July 9, 2013
Perhaps World Peace is being serious. Perhaps he only wants to play for the Lakers and anything else would be unsatisfactory. Perhaps his father is speaking out of turn and took something he said in passing out of context. Perhaps Metta wasn't even aware what he and his father were talking about.
Who the hell knows what's going on in Metta World Peace's head?
But if the retirement talk is what I think it is—an empty threat to non-contending teams leaked via media—then it's a worth a shot. World Peace has no power in this situation. He has no right to refuse to report. Threatening to retire if scooped up by a team is really the only course of action that World Peace has, should he want to force his way to New York or the Los Angeles Clippers.
Will Metta World Peace actually retire if the Lakers amnesty him?
At the risk of sounding cynical, there's absolutely no chance that World Peace will retire if everything goes down as expected. Human beings just do not turn down over $7 million. Not when they have agents, family members and the like all pressuring him to go for one last hurrah.
The notion that World Peace would actually retire is frankly ridiculous—even for someone who changed their name to Metta World Peace. But there is just enough of a possibility of it happening—again, this is Metta World Peace we're talking about here—that one or two teams considering him could just pass, thinking it's not worth the trouble.
And in situations where players have no leverage, finding that Tic-Tac-sized straw to grasp on is nothing short of brilliant. Say what you will about Metta World Peace, but he's handling his final days as a Laker correct.
We'll just have to find out whether this devious plan works. Something tells me, knowing Metta, that it will be an awfully interesting couple days.
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