Metta World Peace expressed his hope to remain with the Lakers by exercising his $7.7 million to stay for the 2013-14 season, but he apparently had nothing to do with the decision.
The eccentric Lakers forward said he largely delegated the thought process to his agent, Marc Cornstein, in hopes such a move would secure a spot with the team.
“He said it was a good chance for me to go out and capitalize off my salary this year,” World Peace said in a phone interview with this newspaper. “I want to go out there, play one more season and then I can be a free agent next season.”
The question remains if the Lakers will let World Peace do that. They could waive him Peace via the one-time amnesty provision at some point between July 10-16.
The Lakers would still owe World Peace his full salary with such a move, but it wouldn’t count against the team’s payroll. The Lakers would also save about $30 million in luxury taxes. The Lakers would still remain over under the luxury tax threshold, which will likely be set at $71.5 million. That means the Lakers could only acquire players either through a mini mid-level exception ($3.2 million) or veteran’s minimum ($1 million).
“It’s not important to me,” World Peace said of the amnesty issue. “I’m worried just about working out.”
World Peace then detailed how he’s ramped up his workout schedule. Since June 15, World Peace said a typical day has involved him working on individual drills in the morning, playing in pickup scrimmages in the afternoon, lifting afterwards and then working on his shot in the evening.
World Peace, 33, believes this routine will ensure he duplicates last season’s effort where he averaged 12.8 points on 40.5 percent shooting, his highest scoring output in four seasons with the Lakers. He also appeared in better shape than in recent seasons, entering training camp weighing 245 pounds at 6 percent body fat.
“Last year, I was capable of averaging 20-25 points,” World Peace said. “I want to come back the same way.”
World Peace, who had until 11:59 p.m on Tuesday to opt out of his contract, had considered doing so in hopes of securing a longer-term deal even for less money, according to a source familiar with his thought process. But with their plan to maximize financial flexibility to pursue high-priced free agents in the 2014 offseason, the Lakers could’ve let World Peace walk. Only Steve Nash remains under contract beyond next season.
“It was more from a positive standpoint,” Cornstein said on World Peace not opting out of his contract. “Players that are happy with their situation look for ways to stay and players that are not happy with their situation look for ways to leave.”
World Peace milked the attention surrounding his contract. He tweeted on Monday night he would announce something on his website at 9 a.m. PST on Tuesday, only to say through a taped video that he and former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens would star in a reality show. World Peace then later said he made that up.
“Why did so many people think I was opting?” World Peace wrote in a Tweet that he since deleted. “Was I that suspenseful? I must be a great actor!”
World Peace has displayed his goofy personality ever since joining the Lakers in 2009. That also coincided with various inconsistent bouts, including adapting to Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, his shaky shot selection and his fast-breaks that leave fans at Staples Center gasping.
But the former Ron Artest became endearing to the Lakers after his Game 7 heroics of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. He then provided a memorable post-game press conference that included publicly thanking his psychologist. That helped open doors for World Peace to help mental health charities, including raffling off his 2010 championship ring.
Despite the results suggesting otherwise this season with a first-round exit to the San Antonio Spurs, World Peace believes keeping the same roster will ensure the Lakers will have better results next season.
“No one will get injured next year,” World Peace said. “That was a one time thing. Everything will be different since we’ll come back healthy.”
“The ball will move more and we will have that determine what happens,” World Peace said. “We have a chance to be like the Spurs, but we have more talent. We’ll be just fine.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at email@example.com