Knicks Fans were keeping their eyes on the clock Sunday evening as it crept closer and closer to 5 pm — almost like when the clocked ticked down New York’s pick during the first round of the 1999 NBA Draft.
The anticipation, much like it was in 1999, was over whether or not the hometown kid was going to suit up for his hometown team.
As 5 pm came and went on Sunday, the Knicks were given a second chance. Another chance to make up for the one they blew 14 years ago when they picked a French Center named Frederic Weis over Ron Artest.
Artest, better known these days as Metta World Peace, cleared waivers on Sunday after being amnestied by the Lakers, and is now an unrestricted free agent.
(Side note, I became a fan of the St. Johns basketball team thanks in part to Artest, and I still find it weird that he is now Metta World Peace)
World Peace is coming off a season in which he averaged 12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game — a big improvement over the numbers MWP put up during the lockout-shortened 2012 campaign.
Chirs Broussard of ESPN reported that World Peace wants to play of the Knicks, but stressed that the homecoming of the Queensbridge native is not 100% certain.
World Peace cleared waivers late Sunday afternoon, making him an unrestricted free agent. A source told ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst that the Knicks, who can offer him part of their taxpayer mid-level exception [roughly $1.7 million], already have reached out to the former Los Angeles Laker.
While World Peace has expressed through various channels that the Knicks are his first choice, he is also holding onto the Los Angeles Clippers and China’s Shanghai Sharks as possible teams to join next season.
World Peace spoke Sunday with Yao Ming about playing in Shanghai, a source said.
With options on the table for World Peace, will he make the choice to return home after the Knicks passed on that chance years ago?
I sure hope so.
The Knicks with Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position are a much better team than with him a small forward. This is almost irrefutable. If World Peace decides to sign with the Knicks, they’ll be addding a bone-fide small forward to a starting lineup that could be one of the best in the Eastern Conference.
And the idea that you could have a defensive trio of Shumpert, Chandler, and World Peace starting every night would certainly be music to Mike Woodson’s ears. Playing MWP at the three would allow Shumpert to work in the shooting guard spot, where he’s had by far the most success.
It also reduces the defensive responsibility for Melo, allowing them to match up better with teams that play bigger lineups.
Additionally, the presence of World Peace helps lengthen the bench, where guys like Smith, Stoudemire, Prigioni and Bargnani should all feel a bit less pressure.
But with the signing of MWP a distinct possibility and roster spots dwindling quickly, the two point guard starting system looks to be in serious jeopardy heading into next season — even though the trio of Prigioni, Felton, and Kidd put up some impressive tandem numbers, particularly down the stretch.
Insteady, it’s becoming more and more clear that the Knicks favor going with a traditional lineup, something the addition of World Peace makes even more likely.
Whatever the Knicks decide to do with their rotations, the team will have its work cut out for it: The Nets have gotten decidedly better, while the Bulls, Pacers and Heat aren’t going anywhere.
Indeed, the East will easily be as competitive as it has been in a decade, and the Knicks need to pull out all the stops to assure they remain part of that resurgence.
The process will likely take a few days, but it’s clear that the addition of World Peace to the Knicks– at what amounts to just a shade above the veteran’s minimum — entails too many positives for both parties to somehow not happen.
The again, what happened in 1999 was shocking, too. Let’s just hope World Peace doesn’t return the favor.