The Lakers are done with World Peace.
As had been rumored for a while, the Lakers made it official on Thursday and amnestied Metta World Peace. That is not going to be popular with Lakers nation, who had grown to love the one guy who hustled and tried to play defense nightly even as the rest of the roster struggled.
World Peace now goes on waivers where any team under the salary cap can claim him for a portion of his existing salary (it’s a bidding process). If none of them grab him he becomes an unrestricted free agent and likely would sign with the New York Knicks (there is mutual interest).
This was a financial move for Los Angeles not a basketball move (he averaged 12.4 points a game with solid defense last season) — he was due $7.7 million next season but with the escalating luxury tax this saves the Lakers more than $14 million (they still have to pay him his salary but not the tax on that salary).
Still, this was not an easy decision or one that will be popular — Kobe Bryant had lobbied on twitter for the team to keep him. World Peace was the best player on the court in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals and he was popular among teammates and fans. For all the flaws in his game, you could never question his desire.
“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 Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak in a released statement. “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.”
There are not a lot of threes on the Lakers roster; look for them to go small for stretches and play just acquired Nick Young there.