Metta World Peace made just 29 appearances for the New York Knicks last season before being bought out in February. While he'd hoped to find a new home with a contending team for the stretch run, the colorful veteran forward wasn't able to catch on anywhere, entering the summer without a contract. But despite seeming to have better employment prospects as a high school coach and blogger than as an NBA player at this stage of his career, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest told no less a hoops authority than Larry King during a recent interview that he has not yet decided to hang up his high-tops, and that he's once again seeking gainful employment with one of the NBA's 30 teams.
"I'm not retired — I'm just coaching," World Peace told King. "People think because I coach that I'm retired. I'm not retired. I'm just coaching."
When King asked whether World Peace still wants to play, the 15-year veteran immediately replied, "Absolutely."
"I think because of last year, people think I'm still hurt," said World Peace, who played only 388 minutes for New York due in part to struggles with a strained left knee — the same knee in which he suffered a tear to the lateral meniscus during his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers, only to return, somewhat shockingly, less than two weeks after undergoing surgery.
"I'm not hurt. I got hurt a year ago, a year and a half ago," he said. "Just like anybody else, if they got hurt a year and a half ago, they'd heal. Two years, I'm healthy."
As was to be expected, World Peace didn't perform well for the Lakers after returning from his knee injury. He averaged just 6.6 points, three rebounds and 1.4 assists in about 24 minutes per game in eight combined regular- and postseason appearances, and shot just 30.6 percent from the field and 19.4 percent from 3-point range. The struggles continued after the Lakers amnestied him and the Knicks picked him up, as World Peace made just 39.7 percent of his shots and hit a well-below-average 31.5 percent of his long balls for the Knicks; moreover, he had clearly lost a step on the defensive end, no longer looking capable of staying with quick perimeter scorers.
He started the season as part of head coach Mike Woodson's rotation, but found his minutes sharply reduced less than a month into the campaign. Before long, there were rumors of practice-floor beef with teammate Kenyon Martin, rumors of trades to Toronto and hardly any rumors of a real serious role, even on a Knicks team that looked bad early, got worse and eventually missed the playoffs.
What began as the storybook culmination of a 14-year journey quickly turned into a frustrating fiasco for the Queens, N.Y., native and St. John's standout.
"I had a great time being in front of my New York fans, but I didn't play a lot, so as a competitive player ... at that time, I was just like miserable with the fact that I wasn't playing and we were losing games," World Peace told King in another part of the interview. "It just wasn't ideal for me."
World Peace declined an opportunity to question Woodson's reasons for putting him on the pine: "I think there was some reasons why I didn't play, but at the same time, I just didn't want to get in the way of the coach, because I believe in letting the coach coach." But with Woodson now out of the picture, King pressed MWP on the prospect of a New York return to play for a Knicks squad run by his former L.A. coach, Phil Jackson, and his former Lakers teammate, Derek Fisher.
"I don't know yet. I don't know," World Peace said of a second round at Madison Square Garden. "I mean, maybe. You never know."
At issue, of course, is World Peace being able to convince NBA decision-makers that he's capable of providing positive minutes at age 35, with nearly 34,000 combined NBA minutes on his legs, two years removed from that derailing knee injury.
"People think I can't play anymore, so my agent, he's got a lot of questions when he's going to these other teams," World Peace told King. "I told him, 'Don't worry about it,' you know. 'We'll go somewhere, we'll play amazing, and other teams will just lose out.'
"It's a thing where [World Peace and his agent] talked, let teams know we're ready to play, and now it's up to these teams to say, 'OK, we want Metta on the team.' Either you want Metta or you don't. You know, wherever I go, I'm going to be amazing."
As he continues to work out and look for an opportunity late in free agency, World Peace is staying sharp by playing at the Venice Basketball League in California ... and, clearly, he's still got some edge to his game:
After saying Sunday that he loved the no-fouls brand of game he got in Venice, World Peace griped about the aggressiveness on Monday before promising to return to the blacktop again soon. (Maybe some NBA scouts or executives will come out to take a look at him.)
If World Peace is truly healthy and the knee injury is fully behind him, he could have some utility as a reserve bruiser who can occasionally make the 3-ball and offer a spark off the bench. If not, though — and the anecdotal evidence doesn't look all that impressive — then the league itself may decide that he is, in fact, retired ... whether he likes it or not.
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