The Los Angeles Lakers waived forward Metta World Peace on Thursday and designated him as the team’s amnesty player as allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced.
On the same day, the Lakers also signed his likely replacement in the starting lineup, inking swingman free agent Nick Young to a one-year deal reportedly for the $1.2 million.
While the signing of Young is a steal for the price, the loss of World Peace -- odd, reading that phrase aloud -- marks a sad day for Laker fans, many of whom will feel it, at least more emotionally, than the departure of one-year rental Dwight Howard.
“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,” said Kupchak. “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.”
In what was otherwise a very disappointing year last season for the purple-and-gold, World Peace was one of the few bright spots, averaging a solid 12.4 points and 5 rebounds in 75 games.
It was quite a departure from his first year in LA, when fans would groan as the ice-cold then Ron Artest launched his three-point attempts. Those feelings, of course, all changed when World Peace came up huge in the playoffs, including his 20-point performance and late trey in Game 7 against the hated Celtics.
A 14-year NBA veteran and former NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, World Peace relished the defensive challenge of harassing the opponent's top scorer, and in doing so, eased the wear-and-tear on Kobe Bryant the past few years.
Although he had his lapses defensively -- often getting beat off the dribble when trying to pick up his man up high beyond the three point line -- he remained an excellent and versatile defender in half court sets, strong enough to bang in the post and on the glass with both 3's and 4's, but still agile enough to defend most 2's and 3's and contest their jump shots.
With some of the quickest hands in the league, World Peace also got more than his fair share of steals, frequently stripping the ball from his opponents.
But what made Metta so beloved in LA was his charm off the court.
World Peace was constantly seen about town, and was always willing to stop and chat with fans. In fact, writers at The Daily Sports Herald frequently saw him at the local boxing events, and he always graciously granted interviews with our staff.
World Peace was very active in raising mental health awareness issues in the community, and for his accomplishments, he was voted the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner in 2011. He even took up dodgeball in a local rec league.
With Howard and World Peace gone, coach Mike D'Antoni patrolling the sidelines, Kobe on the mend, and the passing of Jerry Buss, it truly feels like a new era has arrived in LA. And not necessarily for the better.
Make no mistake, waiving Metta was primarily a money move. By amnestying him, they saved millions in luxury tax dollars despite still having to pay him his $7 million-plus salary this season.
There is some basketball rationale behind the move, as the team is wary of paying the massive penalties for being in the luxury tax 3 times in a 5-year period. Such penalties, in theory, would prohibit their future roster flexibility.
Nevertheless, this year's on-court product will be vastly diminished by the loss of World Peace's D and toughness. Ideally, LA could have used Young as a scoring sixth man off the bench, and kept World Peace as the starting 3.
Basketball-wise, a better move would have been to amnesty Steve Blake's 4-million dollar salary. Granted, the savings would be significantly less, but World Peace, even post knee surgery, is a flat-out better player.
After all, it's not as if the Lakers are just breaking even. Flush with tv money, the team would be generating profit regardless of Metta's presence on the roster.
Meanwhile, Young is a great pickup who will be returning to play in his hometown at what is probably below-market value. It is the second good bargain Kupchak has landed this week, following the team's one-year agreement with center Chris Kaman for the "mini" mid-level exception.
Young grew up in the Los Angeles area and attended USC.
“At 6-7, 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,” said Kupchak. “He’s an exciting player, and we’re excited to have him on our roster.”
Young instantly becomes one of the Lakers most athletic players, as he is a good finisher at the rim and has the quickness to create off the dribble with the shot clock winding down.
A streaky outside shooter who can change a game when he gets hot, Young can also post up smaller 2's and get his own off isolations.
A six-year NBA veteran, Young appeared in 59 games (17 starts) for the Philadelphia 76ers last season, averaging 10.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 23.9 minutes. Young's numbers also reveal a good shooter, with career averages of 37.4 percent from behind the arc and 82.7 percent from the charity stripe.
However, it remains to be seen whether he can be a comparable defender to World Peace. He certainly cannot bang down low as Metta could, nor is it certain that he can harass the Kevin Durant's and Carmelo Anthony's of the world as effectively.
Sadly, World Peace has left LA.
By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor of The Daily Sports Herald