The Knicks bypassed Ron Artest in the 1999 draft and instead opted for the infamous Frederic Weis one slot earlier, but 14 years later, the franchise finally decided to give peace a chance.
The signing of Artest, now famously known as Metta World Peace, was officially announced on Tuesday and the franchise couldn’t be happier to see the Queens native return home.
“Metta is a fierce competitor who brings toughness and championship experience to our roster,” said team president Glen Grunwald. “We are excited to bring him back to New York and give him a chance to play for the team he grew up rooting for.”
World Peace, who wasn’t available for Tuesday’s conference call, will certainly provide the Knicks with more defensive toughness — something head coach Mike Woodson will appreciate. World Peace is also a wild card with a violent and checkered history, but Grunwald said above all of that, he sees a grizzled veteran with a championship pedigree who can help the Knicks get over the hump.
“He was the missing piece for our team. We really don’t have a true 3-man [small forward] other than Melo [Carmelo Anthony], and he gives us the flexibility to play either big or small,” Grunwald said. “His contributions in the locker room as a leader will be huge and his ability to shoot 3s, particularly the corner 3, is big. He can guard multiple positions, which is critical.”
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound World Peace will definitely help the Knicks’ defensive frontline, something that got exposed in the team’s six-game second-round loss to the Pacers last season.
Woodson finally gets a hulking junkyard dog type on the defensive perimeter who can physically match up with the likes of LeBron James of the two-time defending champion Heat, and Paul Pierce, who is now a Net. Although Iman Shumpert eviscerated Pierce in the playoffs last season, while Pierce was a Celtic, Shumpert was miscast at small forward and can now slide back to his more natural shooting guard position.
Grunwald deferred any questions about World Peace’s role to Woodson, who wasn’t on the conference call, but was thrilled at the possibilities.
“The actual role will be determined by the coach, but we love Metta’s heart, spirit and toughness. And he has a lot to give us in a lot of different ways. We’re excited to have him,” said Grunwald, noting that World Peace was a model citizen last season in Los Angeles. “We got rave reviews from the Lakers organization about him.”
Knicks notes …
»Grunwald said the recent acquisitions of World Peace and Andrea Bargnani weren’t with Amar’e Stoudemire in mind, despite the rumblings that the former all-star forward will be on a minute’s restriction at the start of the season.
“We’re hoping Amar’e will be a key contributor and we’ll manage his situation going forward,” Grunwald said. “I don’t think either the Metta or Bargnani signings will affect his role. They’re all good players and good players will play.
“Amar’e can definitely return to his All-Star level,” Grunwald said. “But we’ll see how training camp rolls on. Every player has to make sacrifices to be on a championship team. He has the talent and works so hard to be ready to play. I won’t forecast anything, but he’s a true professional.”
»Kenyon Martin was a true professional for the Knicks last season, and Grunwald said the bruising free-agent power forward is still on their wish list.
“We’re still very interested in Kenyon, but we haven’t reached an agreement yet,” Grunwald said. “He’s under full consideration … and there’s nothing to report at this time.”
»The Knicks may leave open a roster spot in hopes of unearthing a hidden gem as they did at the end of training camp last season.
“There are a lot of point guard candidates,” Grunwald said. “Like I said last week, maybe we’ll open it up for competition in camp and see who steps up, much like Chris Copeland did last year.”
»The backup center spot is also a void the team needs to fill, whether that’s bringing back Earl Barron, or signing one of the younger centers currently on the team’s summer league roster, like Jeremy Tyler or A.J. Matthews.
“We’re looking into that [backup center] right now, but have nothing to report,” Grunwald said.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.