Less than a week removed from officially ending his time with the Lakers, Metta World Peace stepped foot Friday on the set of Hallmark Channel’s “Home and Family” at Universal Studios as if nothing had changed at all.
World Peace maintained his gracious and joyful personality. In between segments, various actors and producers continuously thanked World Peace for his four seasons with the Lakers, where he guided the Lakers to an 2010 NBA championship, raised funds for mental health charities and kept everyone laughing along the way. At no point did World Peace sound bitter surrounding the circumstances that led to the Lakers waiving him through the amnesty provision.
For one, World Peace said he feels “blessed” for signed with the New York Knicks to a two-year deal worth $3.2 million, The former Ron Artest grew up in the Queensbridge section of New York and played at St. John’s University. World Peace also insisted with a straight face that it was “smart” for the Lakers to cut ties with him, a cost-cutting move that saved them as much as $15 million in luxury taxes.
“I think it’s a good move,” World Peace said in an interview with this newspaper. “If I was the franchise, it’s different. But not being the franchise, they have to make a decision.”
Shedding ties with World Peace didn’t give the Lakers additional cap flexibility to acquire another player. The Lakers have only filled his void by signing former USC standout Nick Young to a two-year deal at the veteran’s minimum. He’s considered a vast offensive upgrade to World Peace, whose 9.94 points in four seasons with the Lakers came on 40.2 percent shooting. But World Peace’s absence coupled with Dwight Howard’s departure to the Houston Rockets leaves the Lakers seriously vulnerable on defense.
When told of that reality, World Peace said, “But things weren’t clicking.”
Despite committing to a $100 million payroll, overlapping injuries as well as competing coach and player agendas contributed to the Lakers’ first-round sweep to the San Antonio Spurs. World Peace actually became one of the few bright spots. His improved conditioning contributed to World Peace averaging 12.4 points, his highest output with the Lakers, and providing consistent energy. But World Peace remained limited when he returned 12 days after having surgery to treat torn cartilage on his left knee. World Peace averaged only six points a game and shot 25 percent in the playoffs.
“I thought I was going to finish my career as a Laker,” World Peace said. “But sometimes it doesn’t work that way.”
What does he think?
“They saved more money,” World Peace said. “But if it was me, I would’ve made a bold decision and saved more money.”
The Lakers could’ve used the amnesty provision on Kobe Bryant (makes $30.5 million next season), Pau Gasol ($19.3 million) or Steve Blake ($4 million) since they were on the roster before the NBA constructed its new labor deal in 2011.
“I would’ve amnestied everybody,” World Peace said with clear sarcasm. “It depends on what you’re trying to do. Kobe is the franchise so you can’t amnesty him. I would’ve made a bold decision. I won’t tell you who I would’ve amnestied. But they did it right and did what they had to do.”
So if World Peace would’ve ensured the Lakers save a lot of money, would he have waived Bryant?
“I didn’t say that loser,” World Peace said, laughing.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org