LAS VEGAS -- The Knicks had a chance to draft Ron Artest 14 years ago and infamously passed, selecting Frederic Weis instead.
Now the Knicks can only hope he chooses them, believing he could help them get deeper into the playoffs than the second round in the improving Eastern Conference.
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Artest, who has changed his name to Metta World Peace, made it through amnesty waivers unclaimed Sunday, potentially paving the way for the Queensbridge product to join his hometown team.
Knicks GM Glen Grunwald spoke briefly with World Peace's agent, Marc Cornstein, during the Knicks' summer-league game Sunday on the UNLV campus. World Peace is expected to meet with the Knicks in Las Vegas in the coming days, a source said.
World Peace is a well-known free spirit, and his unpredictable nature has been on display since the Lakers announced their plans to amnesty him last week. He said he doesn't want to play in the NBA next season, preferring to play pro basketball in China (specifically mentioning Yao Ming's team), becoming an arena football player or starting a new career as a coach.
That could have been a ploy to keep teams from claiming him, but it's another reminder of the high-octane personality that World Peace will bring to whichever team signs him. But Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he's not afraid of taking on World Peace, saying, "I can coach any player."
The 2004 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, World Peace averaged 12.4 points last season and made 34.2 percent of his three-pointers. He hit 141 threes, the second most in his 12-year career.
Although he doesn't move as well as he used to, the four-time NBA All-Defensive Team performer still has the ability to frustrate LeBron James and other scoring forwards, which obviously appeals to the Knicks. "I like his skill sets a lot," Woodson said. "I think a lot of teams have liked his skill sets over the years. He does a little bit of everything."
The 6-7 World Peace potentially would start up front with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, giving the Knicks toughness and defense and allowing them to continue to start Anthony at power forward. But World Peace also would come with plenty of off-court baggage.
He was a central figure in the "Malice at the Palace," the November 2004 fight between the Pistons and Pacers that also involved fans. The NBA suspended World Peace, who ran into the stands during the brawl, for the rest of the season and playoffs.
In 2012, World Peace was suspended seven games for elbowing former Thunder guard James Harden after he celebrated a dunk. Harden suffered a concussion from the elbow.
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