LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers are giving Metta World Peace another chance.
The veteran forward re-signed with Los Angeles on Thursday, agreeing to a one-year deal to resume his NBA career.
He won a championship ring with the Lakers in 2010 when he was still known as Ron Artest, starting all 23 postseason games in the highlight of his four-year tenure in Los Angeles.
Although his play appeared to decline sharply before Los Angeles released him through the amnesty clause in July 2013, his steadfast friendship with Kobe Bryant and his ability to mentor the Lakers’ talented young core apparently played roles in the club’s decision to bring back the 35-year-old former troublemaker.
World Peace has been working out at the Lakers’ training complex this summer, and he caught the attention of the franchise’s top brass.
General manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged the “possibility” of World Peace’s return during his preseason news conference several hours before the deal was announced, even while he acknowledged that “clearly Metta is much closer to the end than the beginning.”
“I think he’d be great in the locker room with young players,” Kupchak said. “But we have to be careful not to use a roster spot too early because we have a lot of young kids.”
Coming off the worst season in the 16-time champion franchise’s history, Los Angeles has 19 players under contract. The Lakers must trim that roster to 15 during training camp, which begins in Hawaii next week.
World Peace’s workouts in El Segundo apparently sealed his deal. The defensive specialist has been challenging young Lakers forward Julius Randle in a strenuous series of practices and drills, toughening up the former seventh overall pick who missed last season after breaking his leg on opening night.
“It’s great to have him go against Julius,” Kupchak said. “To watch those two guys practice, it’s almost comical. I’m not sure who gets the better of it. I would be surprised if either player admitted to anybody after practice that they hurt more than they did before practice. I could see Julius going home and getting in a tub, but I could see Metta getting in a tub, too, but you wouldn’t know it because they wouldn’t tell you. They’re both mega-competitors.”
World Peace has been out of the NBA since February 2014, when the New York Knicks waived him after 29 games. The 15-year NBA veteran played in China and in Italy last season, getting ejected from his final playoff game for Pallacanestro Cantu.
The eccentric former math major from St. John’s has played for six NBA teams, making one All-Star team during a career built on tenacious defense and an unpredictable reputation.
He served an 86-game suspension during the 2004-05 season for his role in the Indiana Pacers’ brawl in the stands during a game against the Detroit Pistons. World Peace also got a seven-game suspension while with the Lakers in 2012 for elbowing James Harden in the head.