In 1999, the Knicks drafted a Frenchman named Frederic Weis, who never played for them but did serve as a human prop on a Vince Carter dunk that stole the 2000 Olympics.
The very next pick was Ron Artest, born and raised a few subway stops from the Garden in Queensbridge, and who played at St. John’s. Very weird: The Knicks needed a telescope to scout the international player they took, when all they needed was a squint to see that a local player was a far better choice.
Well, now we have a possible explanation: They weren’t too big on Ron Artest but apparently love Metta World Peace.
He’s coming home, and he’s coming cheap, after the Lakers amnestied him and the Knicks gave him a two-year deal Monday. He’s also coming 14 years late, but better late than never, to a team that bottomed out in the 2000’s because they passed him up and made a bunch of similar mistakes. But ask World Peace, and he’ll tell you that Artest would’ve never made it in New York.
“I wasn’t ready for that, for being home,” he said. “It’s better that they took someone else.”
He might have a point. Artest wound up in Chicago and was ready-made for the NBA, on the court anyway. He was an All-Star and won Defensive Player of the Year after the Bulls sent him to the Pacers, but then came the Malice at the Palace, and Artest was forever stained by starting the bloodiest brawl in NBA history.
He’s now 33, still seeing a shrink and bringing a fraction of the skills that made him a valuable all-around player for the Lakers since 2009. But all the Knicks are asking is that World Peace bring toughness — without crossing the line — and the guts that made him take all the big 4th-quarter shots in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. He should be able to handle that, and maybe even himself in the big city. Even if he hangs out with J.R. Smith.
World Peace can still hit the three-point shot and will accept the toughest defensive matchup without hesitation. But at this point, will he command more than 20 minutes? Perhaps not. As long as those are 20 productive minutes, he’ll be a plus for a team that lost Chris Copeland to free agency.
The other interesting part of signing World Peace is the tension that’s sure to become part of the Knicks-Nets rivalry next season. The Nets added Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, former Celtics who loved to antagonize the Knicks. They may think twice next time, especially Garnett, with World Peace around, simply because you can’t be sure what he’ll do.
And you know World Peace is looking forward to those games because, just seconds after signing with the Knicks, he tweeted: “Where Brooklyn at?”
Well, we do know where World Peace is at. He’s back in New York, where he belongs, in a city that’s just as wildly unpredictable as he is, on a team that wasn’t exactly known for having a spine before he arrived. It’s the perfect way for World Peace to exit the NBA. He should change his name back to Ron Artest, just to see if that person could indeed deal with the challenge that New York offers daily.