Metta World Peace heading for Italy in 'coup of the century'
CANTU, Italy (AP) Former NBA All-Star Metta World Peace has signed for Italian team Pallacanestro Cantu for the remainder of the season.
After a series of teasing tweets from the 35-year-old World Peace - such as ''whatever you can do I Cantu better'' - Cantu confirmed the news, calling it ''the coup of the century.''
''When Daniele (sporting director Daniele Della Fiori) told me about the possibility of signing Metta World Peace, I thought that this could be the right shock to boost the squad at a crucial time in our season,'' Cantu President Anna Cremascoli said. ''Metta will bring a wave of enthusiasm to the whole of Italian basketball and not just to Cantu.''
World Peace, who changed his name from Ron Artest, was playing for the Sichuan Blue Whales in the Chinese Basketball Association after a long NBA career which included stints with the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks.
The forward averaged 19 points and six rebounds in 15 games for Sichuan - where he also changed his name to ''The Panda's Friend'' - but with the Chinese season over he has turned to Italy.
World Peace won the NBA title in 2010 with the Lakers, where he also spent a season with Darius Johnson-Odom, who has been at Cantu since August.
''I'm happy, obviously,'' Johnson-Odom said. ''I've spoken to Metta on the phone and he's very excited about this new adventure. I'm sure he will give us a great contribution, because we're talking about an absolute champion.''
Cantu plays in Italy's Lega A, where it is currently 10th among 16 teams with 17 games remaining. The team has the same amount of points as the two teams immediately above it, Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia and Vanoli Cremona, but has played a game less.
The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs. Cantu, which lost the 2011 final to Montepaschi Siena, last won the title in 1981.