Lakers amnesty Metta World Peace
He came to Los Angeles as the ringless Ron Artest and, after being waived via the amnesty clause, leaves L.A. as former champion Metta World Peace.
The Los Angeles Lakers officially parted ways with World Peace on Thursday night in an NBA luxury tax-cutting measure that will mean approximately $14 million in savings for the team.
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"It's tough to say goodbye to a player such as Metta, who has been a significant part of our team the past four seasons. For anyone who's had the opportunity to get to know him, it's impossible not to love him," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a release. "He has made many contributions to this organization, both in his community work as well as in our games; perhaps no more so than in his clutch play in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals in helping to lead us over the Celtics in one of the greatest playoff wins in Lakers history.
"We thank Metta for all his contributions and wish him the best of luck in the future."
The Lakers still have to pay World Peace his $7.7 million salary for next season, but he is now on the market and teams with cap room can claim him off waivers via a bidding process.
Jose Morales, a longtime friend and confidant of World Peace, told ESPNNewYork.com's Jared Zwerling earlier this week that the veteran small forward would consider retirement if a team claimed him from a city for which he did not want to play.
"If one of these small-market teams picks him up, he won't be happy with that," Morales said. "He doesn't want to play there."
Morales said World Peace would be open to playing for the Clippers, but if he can't stay in Los Angeles, he would want to play only in New York, his hometown.
"If the Lakers amnesty him, he's going to have a point to prove that he can still be that player in New York," Morales said earlier this week.
World Peace took to Twitter shortly after the Lakers made the announcement, thanking Kupchak for calling him first with the news and then having some fun with where his next destination might be.
I'm retiring and playing hockey— Metta World Peace (@MettaWorldPeace) July 12, 2013
A league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com that World Peace has explored the option of playing in China in recent weeks, figuring out if the path blazed by the likes of former stars Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis and Gilbert Arenas would be right for him.
World Peace has weighed the option of playing a full season in China and still being able to come back to the NBA to join a playoff-contending team in the spring, according to the source.
World Peace, 33, is coming off a resurgent season despite the Lakers' struggles. The 14-year veteran averaged 12.4 points (up from 7.7 in 2011-12) and 5.0 rebounds (up from 3.4) and improved his shooting percentages from the floor, the 3-point line and the foul line.
World Peace underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee late in the season and was back on the court in just 12 days before ultimately missing the Lakers' last game of a first-round playoff sweep by the San Antonio Spurs because of problems with the same knee.
Despite needing to have his knee drained later, World Peace was encouraged by the surgery.
"They saw that my knee, inside, my knee was looking great," World Peace said in April. "It's doing really good for a person who has played 14 years in the NBA. So that was encouraging. I was excited. I was excited after the surgery.
"Virtually no wear and tear and things like that, it was like amazing. So I was excited."
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While World Peace's final playoff run with L.A. was a letdown, his first postseason with the team was the stuff of Laker lore. He had the game-winning bucket in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns and topped that with 20 points and five steals in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against Boston, including a clutch 3-pointer with one minute left that gave L.A. a six-point lead.
World Peace also made an impact off the court in his time in L.A., auctioning off his 2010 championship ring to raise more than $600,000 for mental health charities and being voted the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner in 2011.
Kobe Bryant acknowledged the small forward's accomplishments on Twitter earlier in the week, before the Lakers' decision to amnesty World Peace became official.
"No game 7 win without Metta! This is a tough day for laker nation #misspeace #newcbacasualty," he wrote.