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.

Warriors vs. Bucks or Raptors betting favorite to be NBA Finals matchup

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Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?

The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.

The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)

The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1

A few quick thoughts on that list:

• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.

• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.

• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

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Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.

Jayson Tatum guarantees Celtics will win 2019 NBA championship

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Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.

So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.

So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.

Tatum:

We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.

Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.

Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.

I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.

Kristaps Porzingis reportedly gave Knicks wish list of trade destinations: Nets, Clippers, Heat, Raptors

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.

But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.

Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.

The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.

But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.

Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.