Metta World Peace: I confronted J.R. Smith in locker room last season

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Metta World Peace, after the Knicks waived him last season, said the team didn’t want him to lead.

Now playing in China, World Peace is opening up about just what that meant.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

The former Ron Artest disclosed he and J.R. Smith had a heated incident in the locker room after a game last season because World Peace was trying to get Smith to play harder on defense.

World Peace’s agent, Marc Cornstein, spoke to the Knicks during the summer, and World Peace reached out personally to Jackson, who never returned his phone call.

“I don’t understand why they didn’t [sign] me,’’ World Peace said. “But then again, I’m very direct. I think I was too direct in the locker room, too direct to J.R. Smith. It wasn’t from a bad place. I’m older, been on great teams in Sacramento and L.A.

“If someone is not playing defense or not giving effort, that’s my specialty. I don’t hold back on my words. Nobody wants to talk direct to them. We don’t give it to them straight.

“I said some things directly to J.R. Smith in the locker room and he challenged me back, said some direct things to me. But he understood where we came from.”

According to World Peace, on one occasion, owner James Dolan walked into the film room for a bull session. World Peace said he was the only player to speak up about why the team was in disarray.

“You don’t hold nothing back when things are going wrong,’’ World Peace said. “You have to tell Melo [Carmelo Anthony] when he’s being lazy. You have to speak about these things, so when the playoffs come, everyone knows where everybody stands.’’

Keep in mind, this is World Peace’s version of events. J.R. Smith – or Kenyon Martin, who also reportedly bickered with World Peace in the locker room – might perceive them differently.

This mostly sounds like a case of a player losing his standing as a leader as his playing time diminishes. Yes, World Peace has championship experience, but at 34, he was no longer that same player with the Knicks last season. His teammates don’t necessarily want to hear about their own effort when World Peace is no longer competing at an acceptable level, even if his downturn is related more to aging than desire.

World Peace clearly wants to return to the NBA once the Chinese season ends in February – whether he joins the Clippers, Knicks or any other team – and he insists his knee issues are behind him. But it’s hard to see him getting calls for either his veteran presence or what he can do on the court.