After being amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers, Metta World Peace cleared waivers and quickly found a new team in his old home, New York.
The New York Knicks inked the defensive specialist to a two year deal worth just over $3 million yesterday, further adding to a lineup heavily composed of veterans. The Knicks, who originally passed him over in the draft, then known as Ron Artest, now brings him in to help Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert tighten up New York’s defense. The team finished with the seventh best defense in the league last season under the tutelage of Mike Woodson, but come crunch time they folded under the big bodies of Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Artest doesn’t exactly make a big impact on the Knicks projected started five, but what he does do is provide the team with a big insurance policy. While he can play either forward position, he’ll most likely back up Carmelo Anthony at the three spot and in the case that Amar’e Stoudemire struggles with injuries once again, he’ll play a huge role in allowing Anthony to move to the four where he was so successful last season, while the team will gain a solid perimeter defender and a decent three point threat with him in the lineup.
For a player like the 33-year old Artest to return to his hometown where he’ll be beloved rather than maligned as was often the case in Indiana, Chicago and Los Angeles is a huge motivating factor. In interviews since making the announcement, World Peace has had an incredibly optimistic and enthusiastic tone about the move and stated his intention do whatever it takes to hang a banner at Madison Square Garden.
In truth what it will take is better ball movement and rebounding. MWP doesn’t exactly address any of those areas, but he does ease the pain of losing Chris Copeland to Indiana and gives the Knicks a player who has maintained his health and recovered smoothly from the few injuries he has suffered.
World Peace doesn’t make the Knicks a title contender, but with Shumpert, Chandler and him in the lineup, they have a significant defensive core to makeup for Anthony and Felton’s inadequacies in those areas. The old New York Knicks of the 1990s were built around defensive principles, teams Artest will remember well having grown up in New York and attending St. John’s University.
If he brings the Knicks a solid sixth or seventh man off the bench, which he says he’s content to be, this isn’t such a bad signing for the Knicks. If he has to fill in as an insurance policy, he could be one of the best minimum deal signings around. His antics will certainly be a distraction, but as long as his play on the court has an impact, the Knicks will be better for it.