EVEN if former NBA star Metta World Peace is willing and available to play in the PBA as an import, KIA Motors intends to maximize the unlimited height concession given it for the Commissioner’s Cup.
KIA team manager Eric Pineda made this clear on Friday amid speculation that World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, is set to suit up as an import in the Philippines after the former Los Angeles Laker posted a cryptic post on his Twitter account on Thursday.
“Depende yun sa pagu-usapan, eh marami rin naman kaming tiningnan, siguro mga out of 10 (prospects), may dalawa ng standouts, pero ang kailangan naming talaga malaki, mga 6-10 or seven-footer,” Pineda told Spin.ph on Friday.
Under the handicapping system for the Commissioner's Cup, the top eight teams at the end of the eliminations will be able to sign imports no taller than 6-9 while the last four - namely, Blackwater, KIA, Barako Bull and NLEX - won't be bound by any import height restrictions.
World Peace, listed at 6-7 in the NBA where he played for 12 seasons, last played with the Sichuan Blue Whales in the Chinese Basketball Association where he was signed to a million-dollar contract.
Last August, KIA playing-coach Manny Pacquiao welcomed the idea of signing World Peace to play in the PBA as an import. The Filipino boxing first met the one-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year before his fight against Miguel Cotto in 2009.
On Thursday, World Peace, 35, fed the speculations with a tweet.
“Philippine Basketball League soon! Angola Basketball League! During my off time these are my next stops. Get ready Africa. Metta is coming,” World Peace wrote on his Twitter account, which has 754,000 followers.
However, there are doubts on whether Artest's asking price can fit into the league salary cap for imports or on whether he is the import KIA needs to bounce back after a 1-10 (win-loss) campaign in the Philippine Cup.
After seeing his team’s rebounding statistics in the all-Filipino conference, Pineda said it is imperative for the Sorento to bring in a big, dominant import in the hope of making a better showing in the mid-season conference.
“We definitely need to get someone who is 6-10 or up, someone who can really compete,” he said.
World Peace averaged 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists for the Blue Whales, before sustaining a knee injury, paving the way for his Chinese basketball ball club to replace him.
KIA lead assistant coach Glen Capacio said earlier this week that they are looking at possibly recruiting Iranian big man Hamed Haddadi. However, Pineda reiterated that it’s easier said than done.
“Yuna ng sabi ni coach Glen, pero it doesn’t mean siya (Haddadi) na ang kukunin namin, siyempre we have to look at a lot of factors and consider other options,” he added.
That, however, could change if Pacquiao puts his foot down and insists on bringing in World Peace.