It’s official, Metta World Peace reaches two-year deal with Knicks

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LAS VEGAS — UPDATE 5:45 pm: Metta World Peace himself said it is official — he has reached a deal with the New York Knicks. He confirmed it himself at Summer League speaking to MSG Network then other media. He said the decision was an easy one for him, he wasn’t worried about the money (it’s a minimum deal this year with a player option for year two), he just wanted to go back to his native New York.

And win.

“I want to do things that’s hard,” he said. “That’s the challenged of being challenged. We all know it’s the hardest place to win… Why not take on something that’s hard?”

The Knicks last won a title in 1973, and with two-time defending champs in the East, plus some teams like the Bulls, Pacers and Nets that also will be strong, World Peace is going to get his wish — this is going to be hard. But the Knicks are better with him.

3:59 pm: It looks like Metta World Peace is heading home to New York, and with him hopefully will come some much needed improved perimeter defense.

World Peace has reached a two-year deal to play for the Knicks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The second year of the deal is a player option, a source told Y! Sports. World Peace and his agents met with Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald and coach Mike Woodson on Monday in Las Vegas and agreed to the deal in the meeting, league sources said.

That may be a little premature, but things are certainly headed that way and will be finalized soon. Marc Berman of the New York Post’s tweet sums up the situation pretty well, and Sam Amick of the USA Today texted with him as well.

Dwight Howard apparently rubbed off on Metta a bit. But this New York deal will get done. The Clippers were the other team considered to be in the mix, but World Peace would likely have a larger role with the Knicks. There also were some conversations between World Peace and You Ming’s team in China.

World Peace was a free agent after being amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers in a move to save money (he then cleared waivers). The Knicks could only offer the veteran minimum this season, but that doesn’t really matter because the Lakers still have to pay his full $7.7 million salary (the Lakers just save the tax price, which for them is more than $14 million).

He is a great fit for the Knicks at the three, bringing some good perimeter defense to a team that scored plenty but struggled to stop people (they were 17th in points allowed per possession last season). World Peace is not the defender and player he was a few years back, but he is still good. Combined with Iman Shumpert on the perimeter and Tyson Chandler in the paint, the Knicks defense should be improved.

The East, with a now improved Knicks team plus an improved Nets squad, Chicago with Derrick Rose back, the Pacers with improved depth and the Heat still on top of the mountain until knocked off, should be really fun next season.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.