Metta World Peace can be claimed by many teams before the Sunday deadline, but he reportedly has one contending club in mind.
According to a report from USA Today on Saturday, the player formerly known as Ron Artest would like to stay in Los Angeles and play for the Clippers.
The Lakers used the one-time amnesty clause on World Peace on Thursday, and avoided paying $15 million in luxury taxes in the process. That automatically placed the 33-year-old small forward on waivers, where teams currently under the salary cap can pick him up.
If no team does pick him up by Sunday, World Peace is then a free agent and can sign with the team of his choosing. The report also says World Peace would prefer to play with a contending team next season, which might scare off rebuilding teams like Charlotte and Detroit, or fringe playoff clubs like Atlanta, Dallas, or Utah.
The Clippers, who are arguably the most improved team in the league this summer, could use a defensive minded player with playoff experience like World Peace, and could also spite their Laker rivals at the same time.
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L.A. brought in new head coach Doc Rivers, re-signed perennial all-star point guard Chris Paul and surrounded him with some solid shooters in Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick. The Clippers only had to part with young prospect guard Eric Bledsoe.
Rivers will certainly tinker with the Clippers lineup, but slotting World Peace on a frontline that already includes all-star Blake Griffin and hyper-athletic shot blocker DeAndre Jordan would be an obvious move.
Other than L.A., World Peace’s list apparently includes his hometown New York Knicks, along with the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, and Indiana Pacers.
World Peace must first clear waivers before any of those teams have a chance to negotiate with him. The Lakers are still responsible for the $7.7 million left on his contract this season, but he can still collect a salary from any new club that signs him.
Who can afford him is another story. It was reported Friday that the cap-strapped Knicks could sign World Peace to a veterans minimum deal of $1.4 million, and head coach Mike Woodson reportedly said New York was interested. The Nets are already on the hook for the highest luxury tax bill in the league next season and just signed combo-forward Andrei Kirilenko.
The Spurs and Pacers could easily afford World Peace since they are both well under the cap next season. However, Indiana would be a surprising landing spot, since World Peace’s actions in the “Malice at the Palice” in 2004. San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich could clash with World Peace's sometimes aloof personality, but may also admire his tenacity on the court.
World Peace had spent the last four years with the Lakers and helped them win the 2010 NBA title with a clutch three-pointer in Game Seven of that series against the Boston Celtics. Last season, he averaged 12.4 points and five rebounds, all highs during his Laker career.