World Peace picks Finals for Lakers

NEW YORK -- Knicks forward Metta World Peace expects his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, to play for the right to hoist the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy this season.

"I think the Lakers are going to go to the NBA Finals," World Peace said during a signing for his children's book "Metta's Bedtime Stories" in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday.

"I think Kobe [Bryant's] gonna be healthy, they're gonna get Pau [Gasol]. The Lakers are gonna make a big trade like they always do. They're gonna get another good player, boom, boom, and they're gonna go to the Finals. I believe it. Kobe's gonna come back, he's gonna play team ball, and Pau's gonna play well."

According to ESPN.com's conference projections, the Lakers will finish 12th in the West, which prompted Bryant to tweet earlier this offseason, "12th I see.."

The Lakers lost Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets in the offseason, and Bryant, 35, is coming off surgery on his injured Achilles.

World Peace was let go by the Lakers via the amnesty clause and signed with his hometown Knicks.

Notorious for controversial quotes, World Peace declined to respond to Paul Pierce's assertion that it's time for the rival Brooklyn Nets to start running New York City, saying he doesn't have the energy to engage in a war of words and is still just trying to enjoy his offseason.

"I just want apple pie. I don't feel like talking," World Peace said. "I want to go to Whole Foods, enjoy my Whole Foods and play with my teammates. I don't have the energy to go back and forth with words because there's just too many great things happening in New York City for me to be going back and forth."

Asked about the Nets and their additions of Kevin Garnett, Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko, World Peace responded, "Honestly, I don't even know who's on their team. I'm not going to lie. I'm just happy to be a Knick. That's it."

World Peace said he's fine coming off the bench if that's what Knicks coach Mike Woodson thinks is best for the team.

"I mean, I came off the bench when I was in Houston, they tried it. I had to start later because I had to get us out of the first round. And then I came off the bench when I was in L.A. and they tried it and then I had to start," he said. "So I don't have an issue with coming off the bench. I've been starting for 15 years, so hey, it should be somebody else's chance to start.

"I've been starting for 15 years. I could've went to any other team I wanted to and started. I got calls from Oklahoma (City) and the Clippers, all these teams, but I came here and it wasn't to start, it was to win a ring."

Just how feasible is that?

"Those types of [championship] questions are answered in June," World Peace said. "I learned that from Phil Jackson. just going through that journey with Phil, I kind of know the journey, and in New York everything happens so fast and happens now. That's one of the reasons I went to St. John's, where I realized when you prepare you'll be OK."

World Peace also mentioned the two-time defending champion Miami Heat as obvious contenders.

"I think all those teams are good, but I think the Knicks are gonna be great," World Peace said. "Carmelo [Anthony]? What is he, the No. 1 scorer in the last two minutes last season? I'm excited. It's exciting."

World Peace said he has not heard from ex-teammate Lamar Odom, who has battled off-the-court problems in what has been a tumultuous offseason.

"I've been reaching out. I need to speak to Lamar," World Peace said. "That's one thing I can't [comment on] until I speak to him personally. I don't even know what to say. Shocking headlines. But I need to speak with him."