Could Metta World Peace opt out of his Los Angeles Lakers contract this summer?

Metta World Peace has an Early-Termination Option for 2013-14, the potential final year of his contract. This essentially means he has a player option for over $7.7 million, money that he’d have no chance of approximating should he decide to opt out of the deal and try his hand at free agency. So why is he considering opting out?

He’s considering it, because this is a move we’ve seen before, and for many players it makes quite a bit of sense. Players opt out of a lucrative final year of a contract in order to initiate talks for a contract extension that would pay less money in the (first) year an athlete opted out of, but more money than they would probably make as a free agent following your would-be opt-in year. Most of these maneuvers are initiated after a technically illegal wink-wink/nudge-nudge understanding is agreed upon between the team and player.

For instance, most thought forward Richard Jefferson a right nutter for opting out of the $15.2 he was owed for the 2010-11 season nearly three years ago. Jefferson immediately signed a four-year $38.9 million deal a few weeks later with the same San Antonio Spurs team he declined his termination option with. Had Jefferson held on to his $15.2 million for 2010-11, he would have been lucky to make half of the league’s average salary as a free agent in December of 2011, and probably would have had a hard time making an NBA roster last summer. As it stands, he’ll make over $11 million next season due to his savvy decision.

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Metta World Peace might take such a risk this summer. Metta is due to make over $7.7 million next season in the final year of his contract, and if his discussion with reporter Scott Howard-Cooper from Monday night is to be believed, it’s possible the veteran forward could attempt the same maneuver. At whatever cost. From the report:

In a move that would be so Metta World Peace, Metta World Peace is not ruling out the possibility of terminating his contract after the season against all logic, telling he would consider the move in the summer if it meant he could remain with the Lakers longer.


“I think my agent is trying to see if he can get an extension to stay here in L.A.,” World Peace told “I’m really excited about the possibilities of staying here in L.A.”

But would he take a pay cut to help make it happen?

“It’s too early to say those types of things right now,” he said Monday night at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors beat the Lakers 109-103. “It’s too early to say. I don’t know what the Lakers are thinking. I don’t know what anybody’s thinking. I don’t even know what other teams think. I don’t know what’s going on because I haven’t told my agent, ‘Hey, go out there and ask around’ and things like that. I don’t know what anybody’s thinking at this point in time. I just try to keep my game. I’m playing at a good level.”

We don’t want to take too stern an eye to Howard-Cooper’s reporting, for years he’s been as trusted an NBA voice as they come, but we’re right there with you in trying to glean the “not ruling out the possibility of terminating his contract” part from the quotes provided. To us, it seems like Metta is just doing the usual athlete rounds, and keeping those options open. Still, we don’t know what was emphasized off record.

Scott rightly points out that World Peace could be an amnesty provision candidate this summer should he opt into his contract. All deals signed before 2011 are able to be waived in order to save salary cap cost; and though such a move wouldn’t put the Lakers under the cap (ha!) or get them under the luxury tax (especially if the team re-signs Dwight Howard), every penny does count for a team that is due to foot the biggest luxury tax bill in NBA history if Howard sticks around.

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A move to dissolve the final year of Metta’s deal and sign him to, say, a three-year contract worth $10 million would be a sound move for World Peace; but even under those relatively mild terms, the final year of a contract like that might not be worth it for Los Angeles. Even though Metta World Peace, to his credit, has enjoyed a fantastic bounce back season. His per-game and per-minute scoring is up despite the addition of shot takers like Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison, and his shooting percentages have improved across the board. Several of Los Angeles’ best five-man lineups see MWP at either forward position.

The argument to keep World Peace centers on the typical top-heavy NBA conundrum. It’s true that he may not be the ideal player at times, but for a team looking to work around the fringes in free agency to find help on the cheap, Metta might be Los Angeles’ top option. Luxury tax teams are hamstrung while attempting to add help via exemptions or sign-and-trade deals with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and a player along MWP’s lines might be Los Angeles’ best option at hybrid forward over the next few offseasons.

The argument against Metta?

He’ll turn 34 in the second week of the 2013-14 season. And if the Lakers were to sign him to a deal that would pay him more overall over the next few years than the $7.7 he’d make in 2013-14, this would probably entail a 36-year old Metta World Peace suiting up for his final season with the team at around $4 million in the final year of his contract in 2015-16.

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(There’s also the nagging whisper that wonders if the Lakers would send enough hints toward MWP in order to encourage him to opt out, only to decline to re-sign him. Sort of a reverse Carlos Boozer-move.

If that sounds cold or cruel or heartless, understand that this is also the franchise that cut all manner of staff – from longtime front office workers to needed scouting personnel to locker room staff – just to save money during a lockout that could have been over within months during 2011. It’s true that the Lakers have one of the league’s highest payrolls, but that nickel and dime maneuver came just a few months after inking a television rights deal that is just about guaranteed to bring in over a billion dollars to the Laker franchise.

Doing as much would no doubt completely destroy the relationship the Lakers have with Metta’s powerful agent Mark Cornstein. Would such a move be worth it, for $7.7 and various luxury tax fees? Probably not, considering Cornstein’s sway. Then again, these are the Lakers. They’re weird.)

All of this is coming as MWP realizes his own mortality, forced to miss the second half of Los Angeles’ disappointing loss to the Golden State Warriors last night due to a knee injury that has yet to be fully diagnosed. From the Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina:

Lakers forward Metta World Peace suffered a strained left knee and didn't play in the second half. D'Antoni said World Peace "felt fluid in the back of his knee," although he maintained he wasn't sure how the injury happened.

World Peace plans to see Lakers trainer Gary Vitti to assess his availability for Wednesday's game in Minnesota.

"I couldn't really walk," World Peace said while applying lotion on his knee. "I tried to shoot, but I couldn't run."

Who knows, this whole back and forth could be a result of Metta World Peace (smartly) thinking about 2016, with the 2012-13 season slowly slipping away. There’s quite a bit that could go down this summer between Metta and the Lakers, and honestly we’d have a hard time criticizing either side for choosing whatever route they eventually decide upon.

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