The Lakers waived Metta World Peace via the so-called amnesty provision Thursday, a cost-cutting move that could save them about $15 million in luxury taxes.
When Dwight Howard bolted for Houston last week as a free agent, it ensured a roster spot for Pau Gasol but immediately put World Peace, 33, in jeopardy.
With World Peace gone, the Lakers have nine players under contract for about $74 million. After paying almost $30 million in luxury taxes last season, the most in the NBA, they are now barely $2 million over the tax threshold for next season.
Earlier Thursday, in a move that basically guaranteed the end of World Peace’s four-year Lakers run, free agent Nick Young signed a one-year deal for $1.2 million to join the team.
Young, 28, is a shoot-first, pass-last player who gets penciled in to start for the Lakers at small forward after averaging 10.6 points and shooting 41.3% last season with the Philadelphia 76ers as an occasional starter.
He has averaged one assist per game, and 11.3 points, in a six-year NBA career that includes more than 41/2 seasons in Washington and a brief stay with the Clippers toward the end of the 2011-12 season. He played at USC and also at Reseda Cleveland High.
“It’s great for Nick and great for the Lakers,” Young’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Thursday. “He could’ve waited and got more money in the free-agent market, but his dream has always been to play for the Lakers.”
As for World Peace, any team that is under the salary cap can submit an undisclosed bid this weekend to the NBA to acquire him. If the highest bidder offers, say, $3 million, he goes to that team next season and the Lakers use that money to offset the $7.7 million they still owe him.
“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,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “For anyone who’s had the opportunity to get to know him, it’s impossible not to love him.
“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.”
World Peace scored 20 points and had five steals in the Lakers’ 83-79 championship-clinching victory over Boston. He made a key three-pointer with 1:01 to play, giving the Lakers a 79-73 edge in a game in which every point seemed to come with great difficulty.
He later raised about $600,000 for mental-health awareness by raffling off his championship ring and subsequently won the NBA’s citizenship award for the 2010-11 season, as determined by pro basketball media members.
On Thursday, World Peace thanked Kupchak on Twitter for calling him to deliver the news and then added, “I’m going to play for Yao Mings team in China. I can’t wait to arrive in Shanghai.” He later tweeted: “I’m retiring and playing hockey” and “I’m playing for the LA kings.”
More realistically, his next paid job will come in the NBA.
After averaging a career-low 7.7 points in 2011-12, World Peace improved under Coach Mike D’Antoni’s system last season, averaging 12.4 points.
But he sustained torn cartilage in his knee in March, returned after only 12 days and was unable to produce after that. He averaged only six points and shot 25% in the playoffs.
World Peace received at least one important endorsement earlier this week. Kobe Bryant lamented the possible loss of his teammate and said on Twitter, “Personally I’d keep Metta and make a run with the unit we have and just add a few pieces.”
One thing the Lakers won’t miss with World Peace — his annual brushes with the NBA discipline office.
He was suspended seven games after elbowing James Harden in the head in April 2012. Harden sustained a concussion from the blow.
Last season, World Peace was hit with a one-game penalty after striking Detroit guard Brandon Knight in the jaw. It was his 11th suspension since 2003.
Only three other Lakers were eligible to be cut via amnesty because they were on the roster when the provision was installed in 2011: Bryant ($30.5 million next season), Gasol ($19.3 million) and Steve Blake ($4 million).
The signing of Young means the Lakers get a player who can run the court better than World Peace. Young’s best season was with Washington in 2010-11, when he averaged career highs of 17.4 points and 31.8 minutes a game.
“At 6 feet 7, Nick’s size, ability to create his own shot and athleticism make him a versatile player who will give our lineup multiple looks on the floor,” Kupchak said. “He’s an exciting player, and we’re excited to have him on our roster.”
The Lakers still have a handful of roster spots to fill and are trying to sign guard Jordan Farmar in a complicated deal that must include a buyout from a pro team in Turkey.