- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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There is perhaps no one in the world with a better perspective on Tuesday's upcoming game between the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks -- and all the background defining both franchises in the moment -- than Metta World Peace.
After all, he has played for -- and been cut by -- both teams in the past year, with the Lakers waiving him via the amnesty provision in July and the Knicks reaching a buyout agreement with the 34-year-old forward last month.
Known for his candor and unique brand of humor, it has been awhile since the L.A. media has had the pleasure of bantering with the 14-year veteran. The last time World Peace spoke to reporters in Los Angeles, last summer, he bluffed that he would rather play in China than return to the NBA, in hopes of scaring teams away from claiming him off waivers so he would be free to sign with his hometown Knicks.
When the Lakers made their lone annual trip to play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in January, World Peace came down with a conveniently timed 24-hour sickness and avoided speaking to L.A. reporters while he was in the midst of 15 straight DNPs.
Well, World Peace certainly made up for lost time Monday. The former defensive player of the year was a guest on the "Max & Marcellus Show" on ESPNLA 710 Radio and spent close to two hours in studio (listen to the podcast of the show here).
The following are highlights from the conversation:
On Phil Jackson joining the Knicks as their new team president: "I’m sure he wanted to finish as a Laker. He’s been a champion with the Bulls and with the Lakers and then everybody forgot about his Bulls days, and I think he’s going to make everybody forget about his Lakers days."
On the Knicks' chances to rebound with Jackson at the helm: "Definitely, I could see him winning next year big and being a problem in the East. A major problem. Because he has the pieces already. The Knicks are going to be a major problem. With Phil there, it’s done. Everybody watch out in the East."
On being coached by Jackson in L.A.: "He would pick on me at practice. Get that spark plug back. I like how Phil uses the media to get at players, because sometimes if a player is doing something that’s destructive to the team that will never get out in the media, sometimes you have to push his buttons. Because there’s a lot of things that happen that media would never know about and it could affect the team indirectly."
On whether Jackson and the Knicks or the Buss family and the Lakers are better suited to win now: "Phil. He has 13 championship rings. The Lakers have 16 championship rings. Ten of those rings was under the Buss administration. So Phil has 13 rings. The balance is going toward him."
On whether he would have accepted a buyout in New York if he knew Jackson was going to be joining the front office: "Absolutely not."
On his time with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers: "I owe a lot of my career to Kobe. I got that ring."
On whether he would prefer to play in New York or L.A. next season: "I don’t think I can say anything right now because I don’t want to mess up my options. I might want to go to Milwaukee."
On the interest he received from teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs last summer: "I want to coach one day. Why not go to San Antonio? I can learn under Pop [Gregg Popovich]."
On having run-ins with J.R. Smith in New York: "My whole thing was teaching J.R. to come back to bench with good body language, because it feeds off to the next person going into the game."
On his nickname for Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni: "Michelangelo."
On the Lakers' air-it-out meeting in Memphis last season: "Kobe was furious and he just wanted things to change, and him and Dwight [Howard] at the time wasn’t clicking. I think Dwight would take it too personal because Kobe is like very direct and Kobe gives you, like, a chance to show who you are. Not necessarily produce, but just to show who you are. Kobe wants to see you out there on the court, and he wants to see you like an attack dog. A smart attack dog. Show that you have heart. Show you care. He wants to see it right away."
On Howard's limitations as an offensive player: "That’s where I had an issue with Dwight sometimes because he’s strong and he can rebound, he can block shots, he can dunk. But his moves are not polished yet. So to want the ball every time we’re going to give it to you, because the franchise called for that, but he isn’t going to score."
On Pau Gasol: "He just looks like he’s breaking down, but I don’t think he is. He runs like he’s broken down, but I think he’s healthy."
On Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman, who coached World Peace in Houston: "Adelman is amazing. He deserves a championship, absolutely. Because I played for him and he was one of those coaches where everything he said was right. Whatever he said, we would just do it and it worked. It was weird."
On returning to the city of Los Angeles after leaving the Knicks: "This year, I wanted to congratulate the females in L.A. They look amazing. When I came back, I was like, ‘Wow, something’s happened.’ I was only gone since September and they improved 100 percent."