Lakers’ next decision: Keep or ‘amnesty’ Metta World Peace?
Wednesday could have been the first day of the rest of Dwight Howard’s career with the Lakers.
Instead, it might be the final day for Metta World Peace with the Lakers.
On the same day free agents can officially sign with their new teams, the one-week window slides open for the NBA’s “amnesty” provision in which the Lakers can waive one player and benefit financially. World Peace is the only player they are considering.
There’s still a chance the Lakers will keep World Peace and his $7.7-million salary next season despite Kobe Bryant’s wishing him a fond farewell on Twitter on Monday. To Bryant’s credit, he amended his tweet within a few minutes, ending it with, “Lakers still deciding.”
The Lakers have nine players under contract for $81.6 million next season after agreeing to terms Monday with center Chris Kaman. If they cut World Peace, they still must pay his salary but would save about $15 million in luxury taxes.
The problem: The Lakers will have no small forwards on their roster if they waive World Peace, though Bryant occasionally plays the position.
Only three other Lakers are eligible to be cut via amnesty because they have been on the team’s roster since July 2011: Bryant (due $30.5 million next season), Pau Gasol ($19.3 million) and Steve Blake ($4 million).
Bryant won’t be dropped despite probably missing the start of the season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon. Gasol’s roster spot was saved after Howard bolted for Houston. Blake improved dramatically toward the end of last season and would be a relative bargain in a league with an average player salary of $5.3 million.
If World Peace is cut, teams that are under the salary cap can submit an undisclosed bid to the NBA to acquire him. If the highest bidder offers, say, $3 million, World Peace goes to that team next season and the Lakers pocket that money and pay the remainder of his $7.7-million salary.
World Peace, 33, initially adapted quickly to Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense, averaging 14 points in December and 13.3 in January, but then dipped in February and sustained torn cartilage in his knee in March.
He didn’t look strong when he returned, averaging only six points on 25% shooting in three playoff games for the Lakers. He was unable to play in Game 4 of San Antonio’s first-round sweep.
At the very least, the Lakers should bring back World Peace for entertainment value in a season that could be severely lacking in victories.
He made a splash his first season with the Lakers, euphorically saying to reporters “Recognize me!” in a postgame news conference after the team beat Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals.
More recently, he wore a blue Cookie Monster T-shirt for his end-of-season meeting in May with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and D’Antoni.
He appeared upbeat at that time.
“This year has been pretty tough for the organization, players, coaches, fans. We have to do anything in our power individually to not let this happen again,” he said.
On Tuesday, he greeted newest Lakers acquisition Chris Kaman on Twitter by calling him “Chris Kaveman” and saying he was a difficult player to defend.
“And now he is a veteran,” World Peace added. “I can see him getting a ring in Los Angeles.”
There are more pernicious issues, of course, that come with keeping World Peace, mainly 11 suspensions since 2003, including a one-game penalty last season for striking Detroit guard Brandon Knight in the jaw.
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