LAS VEGAS -- Days after the bottom fell out on Linsanity last summer, the New York Knicks’ brass made a big show of things at Cox Pavilion for their summer league club’s game against the Toronto Raptors.
Raymond Felton, their new starting point guard, loomed about. As did Baron Davis and Amar’e Stoudemire. Allan Houston, Mike Woodson, Glen Grunwald and several members of the front office watched from the red-backed bleacher seats. With confusion over their decision to let Jeremy Lin walk in free agency to Houston dominating league discussion, the sudden appearance of such a large contingent, whether conscious or not, sent a pretty clear message to the world: We’re all in this together.
This year, the newest Knick was running the sideshow. Hours after his two-year agreement to return to New York surfaced, a grinning Metta World Peace, almost out of nowhere, popped up around the very same court for the Knicks’ summer league game against the Charlotte Bobcats. He made a beeline to the MSG broadcast table for an in-game interview, then held court with a pack of reporters for about six minutes, and then he was gone.
The whole thing lasted maybe 30 minutes. In its wake was a small jolt of energy to a generally subdued Las Vegas crowd and a few charmingly silly quotes to harp on.
Topics ranged from Arena football:
“The thing was, y’all know I like to be adventurous. I have no filter and I have no filter in my creativity. Very bold. I changed my name. So the thing with the Arena Football League was really appealing to me. That was something I mentioned to everybody. And I’m pushing kids to play multiple sports, like Bo Jackson did back in the days. So playing arena football, who knows if I would have been good or not? But it was a way to inspire something that’s always in my mind.
To playing in China:
“Then my second option was China; that’s different. ... Too many guys in New York City I grew up playing basketball only focused on the NBA. They forget about other things, education and the world. And being in my prime, I think China would have been very inspirational.”
To Yao Ming:
“I was really ready to go to China and play for Yao. I love Yao.”
To his role with the Knicks:
“Doesn’t matter. I don’t care if I’m starting, or sweeping the floors. You hear me? I want to win.”
It’s what we’ve come to expect from World Peace now, six teams and 14 years into his NBA career: that the things he says and the discussion around him supersede the things he does on the court.
Thanks in part to a better diet, World Peace rebounded a bit from consecutive flat seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, raising his PER almost two points and his 3-point percentage by almost five percentage points. On a M*A*S*H unit, he was a fairly consistent presence; he missed only six games after a knee injury that was supposed to cost him weeks. While he’s not the stopper he once was, the Knicks need all the help they can get on defense, so it’s hard to argue with the deal, especially at a reported $1.6 million (with a player option in the second year).
But the real victory, for the Knicks and the NBA, is that he and his bizarre thoughts will remain in the news cycle. His ability to stretch the floor will always take a back seat to his ability to stretch reality.
In that respect, playing in his hometown, for a team that built its foundation on two superstars (Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony) by name more than production when they first arrived, indeed seems like a fit.