TrueHoop: Metta World Peace

Monday Bullets

August, 19, 2013
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
  • Premiering Friday in Chicago: "Lockout: The Musical," by Ben Fort and Ballerball's Jason Gallagher.
  • Chris Hansen, the hedge-fund manager whose bid to bring the Kings to Seattle, contributed $100,000 to a PAC aimed at torpedoing a plan to build a new arena in Sacramento. Hansen says he regrets the decision. James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom: "Once a white knight for Seattle, Hansen now comes across as vindictive, smug and bitter. He is still holding tightly to a 'binding agreement' that was never really binding. By taking the next step and attempting to spoil Sacramento’s arena deal, he comes across as petty and small."
  • The sad mystery of former Pacer and Israeli Basketball Super League legend Kenny Williams, who was deported from Israel to the United States, where he's now confronting a new series of legal problems.
  • Seerat Sohi at Hardwood Paroxysm: "You learn that the whole of life is just a gigantic struggle between deciding when to be selfish and when to be unselfish. When to shoot and when to pass. When to drive the lane with reckless abandon and when to set the offense. You learn that these things are as simple as they are impossible. It takes experience, it takes a cerebral, Chris Paul-esque sense of everything that’s happening around you."
  • Never seen "Space Jam" on the big screen? The E Street Cinema in Washington, just four blocks or so from the Verizon Center, has you covered on Aug. 30.
  • When Jarrett Jack clowns J.R. Smith about spending $450,000 on an armored truck, Smith tweets back with, "Man stop it u spend that on clothes!"
  • Interesting stuff from Ian Levy at Hickory High about the rote perceptions surrounding pot and pro basketball players.
  • Roy Hibbert send thanks to the Spurs for letting him use their facility to work out.
  • Metta World Peace will be playing a twin-bill comedy show on Aug. 31 at the Hollywood Improv.
  • Finally getting around to reading "Nixonland," a fun, narrative, pulpy political history of the mid-60's through mid-70's. When Richard Nixon gets serious about targeting political enemies with instruments of power like the IRS and FBI, one of his early targets is longtime Democratic operative Larry O'Brien, who would later become NBA Commissioner.
  • If the Warriors win big this season, could a healthy Stephen Curry emerge as an MVP threat?
  • If we're in the Wireless Age, then why are we still plugging so many things in? Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is part of a group of investors funding an endeavor by Meredith Perry that wants to solve that problem with piezoelectrical technology.

How you know you're at summer league

July, 16, 2013
Foster By DJ Foster

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Somewhere below, a fan in a purple Tracy McGrady Raps jersey sways to the sounds of Everclear.

Las Vegas can be a disorienting place. Natural light is strictly forbidden in all the buildings, so any concept of time ceases to exist. Reality is questioned. Things get weird.

In that sense, summer league functions sort of like the totems used in the movie “Inception” -- you know you can only see these things in one place, and one place alone. This is how you know you’re at summer league.

Cargo shorts for general managers and capri pants for 7-footers
The leading executive of your favorite team typically wears expensive Italian suits to games and looks like a million bucks. But at summer league? Cargo shorts -- all day, every day. Some ride a little higher up the thigh than others, but everyone appreciates their practicality all the same.

In case you need help spotting the NBA players in attendance, fashion choices like DeAndre Jordan’s lime green capri pants are here to be your North Star.

Adventurous fast breaks
Outlet passes have about the same odds of success as the casinos. A summer league staple is the ambitious lead pass that sends a player sprinting at full speed into media row, sending diet cokes flying as terrified reporters clutch their laptops.

In the case of a successful deep pass, things get even more entertaining. Most of the guards in Vegas forget about the finish itself and focus more on flying into their defender and drawing whatever contact they can. It’s as if both the offense and defense embrace the “no easy layups” philosophy.

Blackjack with your favorite rookie
Making the wrong “hit” or “stay” at the blackjack table can draw the ire of your tablemates, but the fear of retribution grows exponentially when the person to your left is a 6-foot-10 scowling monster of an athlete.

It’s better to stick to the craps table, where you’ll see first-round draft picks take off their shoes (as if they were high heels, or something) and place them directly on the table for all to behold.

Yup, they’re still way too close to the action on the baseline. We have the technology, people. Move it back.

Throwback jerseys
If you can imagine your closet from 2004 throwing up, that’s what the crowd at summer league looks like. The best throwback jerseys seen so far this year, ranked from why do you have that? to how did you get that?!:

Mike Bibby, Grizzlies; Bobby Jackson, Kings; Corey Maggette, Clippers; Rory Sparrow, Lakers; Jason Williams, Kings; Tracy McGrady, Raptors; Arvydas Sabonis, Blazers, and the best of them all, a Dennis Rodman jersey ... from when he was with the Lakers! What a glorious 23 games those were.

Also, a retroactive shout-out to Wally Szczerbiak for wearing a Wally Szczerbiak jersey at last year's summer league.

Players of Unusual Size inhabit the desert every July. The favorite from this year’s crop? Hawks 7-foot-3, 271 pound center Boban Marjanovic. Analysis of the giant big man on press row was as thorough as it gets, “I think his ears are as big as my face.”

Revived pop music
Both arenas played some personal favorites brought back from the dead, or possibly from someone’s expansive “Now That’s What I Call Music!" collection: Everclear’s “I Will Buy You A New Life”, Usher’s “Caught Up” and Will Smith’s “Getting Jiggy With It”

No instant replays
Unless you’re a high school basketball aficionado, there’s a pretty good chance you haven’t caught a live game without the benefits (and perils) of instant replay. Missing a huge block or a big time dunk can kind of stink, but the constant pace of the game and the lack of stoppages are a sight for sore eyes.

Jersey swaps
In the Orlando Pro Summer league, TrueHoop Network member Jordan White saw a player switch teams to help the opponent amass the requisite amount of players needed to start the game. He also saw a player wear a jersey with a name that was not his, and best of all, the use of duct tape to alter a jersey.

That hasn’t quite happened yet in Las Vegas, but you will occasionally see players switch teams -- or disappear altogether. Jonny Flynn was on the Clippers roster for a game, played third-string point guard for four minutes and then disappeared into the night to save some face.

Warren LeGarie logging miles
The Sport VU Tracking system has not yet found its way to summer league, but a test run with Warren LeGarie might reveal some Ray Allen-type movement around the arena. LeGarie is the founding father of Las Vegas Summer League, and he treats it just like he would an infant child. He’s everywhere at once, always moving, schmoozing and checking to make sure that everything is in line, that VIPs are taken care of, and that the event is running smoother than a baby’s bottom.

Legends stay legends
The mere mention of Anthony Randolph’s name evokes mental images of his 42-point performance. In Las Vegas, he is preserved in time as the 6-foot-11 dominant point forward, and nothing else.

Chance encounters with World Peace
At 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning, Metta World Peace and a group of friends took a hotel and casino tour courtesy of a hotel employee. A few hours later, word came out that he had signed with the New York Knicks. Tip your waiters, waitresses and concierge, Knicks fans.

A crippling fear of overtime
Overtime is usually dreaded by reporters because of deadlines and whatnot, but add the awaiting splendors of Las Vegas to that equation, and you have rows of media with fingers crossed at the end of games.

It hasn’t happened yet, but if a game isn’t decided after one overtime, summer league has sudden death basketball for the second overtime period -- first team to break the tie wins.

Creative trash talk
Since the rules are made up and the points don’t matter, guys have to get a little creative with their trash talk.

When one player asked an opponent on the bench in a sassy tone why he wasn’t playing, the player on the bench simply replied, “Because I’m too [expletive] good.”

Taking a limo to in-and-out burger
Because let’s be honest -- you would too.

Mayweather finding a way
What’s Floyd Mayweather doing on a Sunday afternoon? Catching some summer league action, obviously. Mayweather and some very large friends stuck around for a few hours to take in some hoops and, presumably, do some off-the-books gambling on the game -- which is simultaneously awesome and depressing, kind of like Las Vegas itself.

The Knicks: A summer spectacle

July, 15, 2013
Verrier By Justin Verrier

LAS VEGAS -- Days after the bottom fell out on Linsanity last summer, the New York Knicks’ brass made a big show of things at Cox Pavilion for their summer league club’s game against the Toronto Raptors.

Raymond Felton, their new starting point guard, loomed about. As did Baron Davis and Amar’e Stoudemire. Allan Houston, Mike Woodson, Glen Grunwald and several members of the front office watched from the red-backed bleacher seats. With confusion over their decision to let Jeremy Lin walk in free agency to Houston dominating league discussion, the sudden appearance of such a large contingent, whether conscious or not, sent a pretty clear message to the world: We’re all in this together.

This year, the newest Knick was running the sideshow. Hours after his two-year agreement to return to New York surfaced, a grinning Metta World Peace, almost out of nowhere, popped up around the very same court for the Knicks’ summer league game against the Charlotte Bobcats. He made a beeline to the MSG broadcast table for an in-game interview, then held court with a pack of reporters for about six minutes, and then he was gone.

The whole thing lasted maybe 30 minutes. In its wake was a small jolt of energy to a generally subdued Las Vegas crowd and a few charmingly silly quotes to harp on.

Topics ranged from Arena football:
“The thing was, y’all know I like to be adventurous. I have no filter and I have no filter in my creativity. Very bold. I changed my name. So the thing with the Arena Football League was really appealing to me. That was something I mentioned to everybody. And I’m pushing kids to play multiple sports, like Bo Jackson did back in the days. So playing arena football, who knows if I would have been good or not? But it was a way to inspire something that’s always in my mind.

To playing in China:
“Then my second option was China; that’s different. ... Too many guys in New York City I grew up playing basketball only focused on the NBA. They forget about other things, education and the world. And being in my prime, I think China would have been very inspirational.”

To Yao Ming:
“I was really ready to go to China and play for Yao. I love Yao.”

To his role with the Knicks:
“Doesn’t matter. I don’t care if I’m starting, or sweeping the floors. You hear me? I want to win.”

It’s what we’ve come to expect from World Peace now, six teams and 14 years into his NBA career: that the things he says and the discussion around him supersede the things he does on the court.

Thanks in part to a better diet, World Peace rebounded a bit from consecutive flat seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, raising his PER almost two points and his 3-point percentage by almost five percentage points. On a M*A*S*H unit, he was a fairly consistent presence; he missed only six games after a knee injury that was supposed to cost him weeks. While he’s not the stopper he once was, the Knicks need all the help they can get on defense, so it’s hard to argue with the deal, especially at a reported $1.6 million (with a player option in the second year).

But the real victory, for the Knicks and the NBA, is that he and his bizarre thoughts will remain in the news cycle. His ability to stretch the floor will always take a back seat to his ability to stretch reality.

In that respect, playing in his hometown, for a team that built its foundation on two superstars (Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony) by name more than production when they first arrived, indeed seems like a fit.

Lakers' series loss is worst in team history

April, 29, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant and Pau Gasol wonder what could have been as time runs out on the Lakers' season.
How bad was it for the Los Angeles Lakers in their first-round series sweep?

Let us count the ways, with significant help from the Elias Sports Bureau.

• The San Antonio Spurs outscored the Lakers by 18.8 points per game in their four-game sweep. Elias tells us that is tied for the fourth-largest points per game differential in a best-of-seven series in NBA history and the worst by the Lakers in franchise history.

The biggest in any series was 25.3 points in a four-game sweep by the Orlando Magic over the Atlanta Hawks in the 2010 Eastern Conference semis.

• The Lakers have now lost six straight playoff games dating back to last season. That matches the longest playoff losing streak in franchise history. They previously lost six in a row from 1973 to 1974 and 1991 to 1992.

• Dating back to his stints with the Suns and Knicks, Mike D’Antoni is 1-14 in his last 15 playoff games as head coach. Elias says the only other coach in league history to lose 14 of 15 in the postseason is current NBA broadcaster Mike Fratello. His worst span was losing 16 of 17 from 1995 to 2006 while with the Cavaliers and Grizzlies.

• The Lakers lost the final two games of their series against the Spurs by 31 and 21 points, respectively. In doing so, they became just the second team in NBA history to lose consecutive home playoff games by at least 20 points, joining the Miami Heat who did so against the Hornets in the 2001 first round.

• Since the playoffs expanded to eight teams per conference in 1983-84, the Lakers are now 0-5 in playoff series as the 7 or 8 seed. It should come as little surprise that they struggled against the 2-seed Spurs as the Lakers went 4-14 during the regular season against the top five seeds in the Western Conference including a 1-2 mark against San Antonio.

• The Lakers’ stars struggled with injuries for much of the season and it all came to a head on April 12 when Kobe Bryant was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. When they did have Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard in the lineup together, they went 8-14 in 22 games.

• Additionally, the Lakers’ expected starting five of Nash, Bryant, Gasol, Howard and Metta World Peace played only 189 minutes and 11 seconds together - just 4.8 percent of the team's total minutes played during the regular season.

The Kobeless Lakers offense

April, 15, 2013
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesDwight Howard supports something along the lines of a "15 seconds or more" offense.

Any offense dominated by Kobe Bryant becomes a blank slate when he’s not present. A few very general principles might remain, but the Los Angeles Lakers’ half-court offense was essentially starting from scratch. Over the weekend, Dwight Howard prescribed a slower, more inside-oriented offense as the best bet to mitigate Bryant's absence. Did the Lakers accept Howard's proposal? A few quick notes from the Lakers' 91-86 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night at Staples Center:
  • What kinds of shots does an offense look for and how does it try to find them? The answers to those questions provide a general sketch of a team's core identity. The Lakers on Sunday night were a team looking to work the ball into their big men on the block, and achieving that in fairly conventional ways. Early on, the vast majority of possessions were simple posts up with an entry pass from the wing in a mostly static half court. The Lakers posted up 32 times, the Spurs eight. When the Lakers wanted buckets to ice the game late, they punched the ball into Howard on the left block one-on-one against Tim Duncan. Howard generated 15 true shot attempts out of post-up sets, scored 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field and 8-for-17 from the free throw line.
  • The starting unit produced fairly efficient offense during its stint to open the game. It wasn't gangbusters and the ball got sticky, but the Lakers found a number of looks at close range and their presence on the floor without dynamic wing scorers had the Spurs leaning low all night. Pau Gasol couldn't find the net, but he still demanded attention down low from the defense, and leveraged that attention to find shooters (for instance, a big 3-pointer by Steve Blake to give the Lakers a two-point lead with less than five minutes to go in the first half).
  • With Bryant out, Blake stepped in as the Lakers' primary perimeter creator, and it's no surprise he saw a huge uptick in usage. Blake finished with 23 points, including 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. A lot of the Lakers' stuff originated with Howard and Gasol at the elbows to serve as traffic cones for Blake. The basic strategy for Blake was to penetrate into the teeth of the defense and hope something materializes -- either a close-range and/or makable shot, or a passing lane to an open shooter or rolling big man. His eight 3-point attempts materialized in a hodgepodge of ways: off a high angle pick-and-roll from Gasol, flaring to the wing for a catch in rhythm and a couple of the pull-up variety.
  • The Lakers tried to create shot attempts early (e.g. Dwight Howard rim runs off Spurs misses) but they could never quite establish a pace. You have to think that’s something Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni will drill home prior to Wednesday night’s game. If the Lakers are going to look for shots on the box, then they should do it quickly. One of D’Antoni’s most steadfast beliefs is that the offense has the advantage for the first few seconds of a possession, but after the defense gets set -- especially one as well-tuned as the Spurs' -- it has the edge. When the clock ticked down and the Lakers needed to create something out of thin air, they went into Howard and Gasol at the end of the possessions. Where an offense goes when it's desperate tells us a lot about where an offense believes it's strongest.
  • The Lakers' half-court offense started to decongest a little when they started running some corner sets on one side of the floor, while Howard set up on the opposite block. Once the Lakers swung the ball to the second side and the entry pass to Howard was made, he was in much better position to attack the rim. We can forget that Howard is an absolutely unguardable beast when he catches in close proximity to the basket. The Spurs doubled Howard on a couple of occasions in the first quarter -- defensive reads in at least one case -- but by the third quarter, the Spurs threw hard double teams at Howard on the catch as a matter of policy.
  • It's not an enormous problem, but Metta World Peace has some sort of issue with delivering entry passes. Funny thing is, he doesn't make a lot of poor passes. Yet if there's any sort of front on the post player, World Peace gets anxious. He'll bail out and put the ball on the floor. Twice in the first quarter, World Peace looked off post players -- Gasol and Howard once each. The two possessions yield was a couple of free throw attempts.
  • With Gasol and Howard on the floor together, the Lakers were outscored 50-47. When the two big men share the floor without both Bryant and Steve Nash, the Lakers are a minus-8 for the season in a smallish sample size of 83 minutes.

The two L.A.s: A study in contrast

January, 5, 2013
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant: Respective leaders of two teams whose identities were on full display.

The Lakers and Clippers entered Friday night’s matchup in entirely different moods. Even though the Clippers were coming off back-to-back road losses to Denver and Golden State, the feeling around the team was still rosy as it took the floor. Meanwhile, the Lakers entered the game winners of six of their past eight, but a sub-.500 record meant there was still a long shadow cast over them. The Lakers didn’t seem much closer to answering the hard questions, and the team’s struggles were every bit as stubborn as the Clippers’ success was exciting.

Live basketball has a way of confirming our broad perceptions of the teams on the court, and there was a brief sequence at the end of the third quarter that captured the contrasts with poetic symbolism.

With about 37 seconds left in the quarter, Kobe Bryant got a high screen from Pau Gasol. As DeAndre Jordan stood poised to corral Bryant, Kobe steered laterally across the court, left to right. Lamar Odom didn’t think twice about leaving Jordan Hill to pick up Bryant, who was now being pursued by both Odom and Matt Barnes. Gasol had a layer of space around him in the lane and Hill had sole ownership of the baseline, but Bryant twirled, stepped back and elevated for a fadeaway 20-footer -- which he drained.

The Clippers didn’t blink. Eric Bledsoe collected the ball as it went through the cylinder, inbounded to Chris Paul, who raced up the left sideline against an unsuspecting Lakers’ defense. As Paul steered in his direction, Hill moved away from Jordan to stop the ball, which was precisely what Paul was waiting for. With Jordan all alone on the far side, Paul flung a lob at the rim, which Jordan caught with two hands and slammed home.

Bryant manufactured a tough shot for himself, then six seconds later Paul found an easy shot for someone else. Both shots were successful, but there was absolutely no parallel to the respective processes.

We saw a similar dynamic at work defensively in the game’s final minute, with the Clippers leading 101-97 as the Lakers brought the ball up.

The Lakers got into a set we’ve seen them run a fair amount since Steve Nash returned. Nash dished the ball off to Bryant just beyond half court, then set a screen for Bryant. The Clippers willfully went into a switch, which meant Paul was now responsible for Bryant while Barnes picked up Nash.

The first reaction was skepticism -- wouldn’t you want the taller defender (Barnes) on Bryant, who seemed destined to step back and launch another bomb from distance? But as Gasol stalked to the top of the floor to screen Paul, Odom (Gasol’s man) joined Paul to blitz Bryant. Before long, Bryant was pinned against the time line. After desperately hurling the ball cross-court to Nash, Bryant eventually got it back and heaved a 25-footer, which spun in and out.

On the subsequent possession, the Clippers got into a 1-4 flat scheme, with Paul dribbling the ball alone at the top of the floor opposite Bryant. Griffin eventually arrived to offer Paul a step-up screen, but Paul told him to return low. During that sequence, Griffin had dragged Gasol with him and, had the Lakers wanted to, they could’ve trapped Paul with Bryant and Gasol -- much the way the Clippers forced the ball out of Bryant’s hands on the preceding possession by smothering him with Barnes and Odom.

But the Lakers chose not to. Instead, Paul crossed Bryant over behind his back, bought himself some space in the process, then drained a 20-footer to give the Clippers a six-point lead with 19.9 seconds remaining.

After the game, Mike D’Antoni explained the risk of sending a second defender at Paul in that situation.

“They’ve got some other good guys,” D’Antoni said. “Right in the middle of the floor, [Paul] is really good at finding the right guy, so you could try [double-teaming], but you’ve got one of the best defenders in the NBA on him, and [Paul] makes an unbelievable shot. After he makes it, you go, ‘Oh, Man!’ But you don’t know that he’s going to make that shot. You’ve got to give him credit. But to double the guy right in the middle of the floor is tough -- with him especially, because he passes the ball so well.”

D’Antoni made a legitimate point. There are about a dozen things that can go wrong by sending an additional guy at Paul. Had Gasol remained at the top of the floor, Paul could’ve split the defenders and the Clippers would’ve been playing 5-on-3, something we’ve seen a zillion times before over the course of Paul’s career. He could've made a heroic pass to a cutter or an open shooter.

Sure, there’s risk in doubling Paul at that juncture, but why not deploy some aggressiveness and exhibit some creativity? Why not take a chance by blitzing Paul with Bryant and Gasol, then have either Jodie Meeks or Metta World Peace, who were guarding Caron Butler and Lamar Odom well beyond the arc on the left side, rotate onto Griffin in the paint?

Maybe Paul can successfully sling the ball across his body to Odom in the left corner. And maybe Odom drains a wide-open 3-pointer before a defender can close. Or maybe Odom drives baseline against a hard close and ends up with an easy dunk at the rim.

But you’re a 15-16 team that can’t find itself defensively. Why not err on the side of ingenuity, especially if it means Chris Paul won’t beat you one-on-one, something he’d been doing for the better part of the night?

The Clippers are making those kinds of calculated risks almost every night -- something they didn’t do a lot last season. And that’s why they’re sitting atop the Pacific Division while the Lakers continue to search for answers and lament their lack of youth or footspeed.

These instances aren’t about age. They’re about decision-making.

Friday Bullets

October, 12, 2012
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz

Metta World Peace lost in space

May, 17, 2012
Mason By Beckley Mason
Metta World Peace, Kevin Durant
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Out on the perimeter, Kevin Durant is too quick for Metta World Peace.

Way out beyond the 3-point line, Metta World Peace never had a chance.

Kevin Durant walked forward, confidently bouncing the ball high off his right hip, his Thunder teammates arrayed along the baseline.

This was the definition of an isolation play; there was no way the other Lakers could offer help.

As he neared the 3-point line, Durant executed a hard right-to-left crossover, dipped his shoulder and glided past World Peace, who managed only to helplessly rotate his hips as though one foot was nailed to the ground.

Having summarily dispatched World Peace, Durant wove back to his right and finished past Andrew Bynum.

It was the first shot Durant took in Game 2, and one of just three Durant isolation attempts all game.

The result was no fluke. In fact, Durant isolated in space against Metta World Peace might be one of the most bankable plays in the Thunder’s awesome arsenal of offensive weapons.

As David Thorpe pointed out on TrueHoop TV, while Metta World Peace can still be a valuable defender, his worth is directly related to the distance he is from the rim. Down in the paint -- where his phenomenal strength and lightning quick hands make all the difference -- that’s where he can dominate.

But out on the perimeter, especially when called to move laterally, not so much.

Admittedly, defending Kevin Durant anywhere on the court is like trying to nail Jello to a wall. But Thorpe notes that Metta World Peace remains particularly well-suited to defending one type of Kevin Durant play.

“He can still chase, I think, very well," says Thorpe. "And for years now I’ve suggested he’s one of the best chaser defenders we have in the league, guarding the guys who want to use single-doubles or staggered screens.”

What Thorpe is describing are the pindown sets in which Durant sprints off devastating screens from guys like Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison. He uses them to create that fraction of daylight necessary to get off his silky jumper, or to create a crease for a tight curl to the rim.

These are the plays that Artest, with his intelligence and strength, still defends quite well. He remains a savvy off-ball defender and knows how to re-route Durant to keep him from catching.

Now for the other half of Thorpe’s take on World Peace’s defense:

“He can run, just fine. He just can’t slide maybe more than a step and a half to two steps and literally stops, very often, when he’s forced to take more than that.”

That’s almost exactly what happened on Durant’s first bucket.

So why didn’t we see it again, and again, and again?

Fancy plays are all well and good, and the Thunder offense has certainly benefited from more nuanced sets. But this matchup demands some good ol’ fashioned four-down isolations that pit Durant’s slick handle and slithery quickness against the leaden feet of Metta World Peace.

TrueHoop TV: When tempers flare

May, 1, 2012
Abbott By Henry Abbott

Twitter reacts: Metta World Peace's elbow

April, 23, 2012
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss

Stop dangerous fouls, make the star sit

April, 23, 2012
Mason By Beckley Mason
Blake Griffin has received his share of hard fouls this season. After Robin Lopez earned a Flagrant 2 and an ejection for collaring Griffin on Thursday, Griffin's teammate DeAndre Jordan vowed to protect his buddy. ESPN LA's Arash Markazi reported Jordan’s statement in practice the next day, when Jordan essentially said he would put the hurt on anyone or any team that went after Griffin.

"If Blake gets fouled, I can't go punch someone in the nose," Jordan said. “We can't do that but throughout the course of a game, other fouls happen to other players on the opposite team and if they happen to be hard fouls, they happen to be hard fouls. We're going to protect our teammates; it doesn't matter who it is."

Jordan was threatening to be the Clippers’ enforcer, a time-honored role in the NBA. Fortunately, this kind of threat has been on the decline since the league has taken steps to curb the violence in the game -- particularly fighting and fouls that endanger players.

But violence hasn't disappeared in the NBA, and the matter is complicated by the relative value of the players involved.

Consider that Robin Lopez has little value compared to Blake Griffin, so if Lopez had taken Griffin out of the game, it would have been a much more damaging blow to the Clippers, even as it was a Suns player committing the infraction. Or how about Sunday, when Metta World Peace was ejected for brutally elbowing star Thunder guard James Harden in the head -- though it wasn’t a part of the L.A. game plan, the exit of World Peace and Harden was a net gain for the Lakers, who eventually came back and won the game.

Clippers VP of basketball operations Neil Olshey has a HoopIdea that could lessen the incentive for NBA violence. He told ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz that rather than simply ejecting the offending player, the team that is flagrantly fouled should have the ability to choose which player sits.

After the ejection of Lopez on Thursday night, the Suns still had all their top players on the court and eventually came back to beat the Clippers. In Olshey’s world, they would have had to do it without a star player: "I want Steve Nash to sit, not Robin Lopez."

In other words, Olshey thinks the stars should pay for the sins of the goon.

A player like Lopez or Jordan might be willing to sacrifice his ability to play to make a statement to an opposing star and team -- that's part of the job description. But would he be as willing to do so if it meant his own star teammate would have to sit?

On Sunday, Olshey's HoopIdea could have forced the Lakers to attempt their second-half comeback without the services of Kobe Bryant. If the league really wants to keep goons from running amok, punishing stars, and thereby their teams, for their goons' rough play is a good place to start.

Bynum, World Peace step up for Lakers

April, 17, 2012
By Ernest Tolden, ESPN Stats & Information

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew Bynum has really picked up his game in Kobe Bryant's absence.
With a 112-108 overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers moved to a season-high 17 games over .500 (39-22) and improved to 4-1 this season without the league’s leading scorer, Kobe Bryant.

Tonight, the Lakers will look to build on that momentum against the San Antonio Spurs (10:30 ET).

Instead of taking a step back lately, the Lakers have shown they can both win without their superstar and thrive offensively. In the last five games, the Lakers are averaging more points and shooting more efficiently compared to when Bryant has been in the lineup this season.

Much of the Lakers’ success without Bryant has been due to the supporting cast stepping up, most notably Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace.

Andrew Bynum
In his first 51 games this season, Bynum averaged a double-double, posting career highs in points (18.3) and rebounds (11.8). But in the last five games without Bryant, he has really stepped up his game at both ends of the floor and has taken an increasing role in the offense. He is averaging four more points per game, five more rebounds per game and nine more shot attempts per game without Bryant.

One of the areas where Bynum has been the most aggressive is in the post. Over the last five games, he has almost doubled his field goal attempts on post-up plays per game compared to when Bryant was in the lineup and has increased his scoring in those situations.

Metta World Peace
World Peace has also found a rhythm in Bryant’s absence. In the last five games, World Peace is averaging 17 points on 52 percent shooting. Prior to this stretch, World Peace averaged just 6.5 points. No other player on the Lakers has increased his scoring more since Bryant has been out of the lineup than World Peace.

Where World Peace has improved the most is his jump shooting. In his first 55 games, World Peace shot just 29 percent from 10 feet and beyond. However, he has been on fire from the outside in the last five games, shooting over 47 percent from that distance.

Production down across board for Lakers

February, 22, 2012
By Douglas Clawson
(The Dallas Mavericks host the Los Angeles Lakers, Wednesday at 9:30 ET on ESPN)

Last month, the Lakers scored a season-low 73 points, but still managed to beat the Mavericks, 73-70. Although 73 points is low for the Lakers, their offense has struggled all season to score.

Last season, the Lakers averaged 101.5 points on 94 possessions per game. This season, they rank 22nd in the league in scoring (93.3 PPG) even though they are averaging 93 possessions per game.

The Lakers’ 102-90 loss on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns typified their offensive struggles, especially behind the arc. They shot 3-of-18 on 3-point attempts, and for the season the Lakers are shooting 30.1 percent from 3-point range -- down more than 5 percent from last season.

They shot 1-of-16 (6.3 percent) on 3-point attempts in a road loss to the Kings on Dec. 26, and failed to make a 3-pointer on 11 attempts in a road loss at Portland on Jan. 5. It was the first time Los Angeles failed to make a 3-point shot in a game since Nov. 16, 2003 against the Miami Heat.

Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace are posting career-low percentages on 3-point attempts, and Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes are shooting below their career marks as well.

Beyond their shooting struggles, the Lakers have not been able to run this season. They have the fewest transition points (330) in the league and average only 10.3 transition points per game. Only 8.6 percent of the Lakers’ plays have come in transition this season, second-fewest in the league behind the Orlando Magic.

Bench production has been another area of concern after the departures of Lamar Odom (14.4 PPG last season) and Shannon Brown (8.8 PPG last season). The Lakers have the fewest bench points in the NBA this season, 21.5 bench points per game, compared with 28.2 last season.

All of the Lakers’ offensive struggles have been magnified in road games where they are 5-11 this season, compared with 14-2 at the Staples Center.

What stats say about Metta World Peace

February, 17, 2012
By Alvin Aņol, ESPN Stats & Info

AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
Metta World Peace gives the Lakers varying productivity on either side of the floor.
"I said . . . 'If I was a stats guy, Metta, you wouldn't be playing at all. Look at your stats offensively. And then Synergy (Sports Technology) says you're the 192nd-best defensive player in the league,'" Lakers head coach Mike Brown said.

"If I was a stats guy, the guy that should be playing at the small-forward spot is Devin Ebanks because he's shooting better than you and Matt."

Those were Brown's words following Metta World Peace's claim that Brown is "all stats."

While Brown claims not to be all "stats", ESPN Stats & Information is, so let's dive into the numbers.

Entering Thursday, the aforementioned Synergy had World Peace allowing 0.813 points per play this season, placing him as the 159th-best defender in the league (slightly better than league average).

To be fair, he's been the responsible man on defense more frequently than many of the 158 players ranked ahead of him. If we raise the minimum to at least 200 defensive plays, World Peace's rank improves to 58th out of 160 players.

Among Lakers with at least 200 defensive plays this season, World Peace grades out as the Lakers' third-best defender, behind Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

One way of measuring how effective he is as a defender is the Lakers defensive efficiency on a per-possession basis when MWP, a former Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, is on or off the court.

When he's on the court, the Lakers have allowed 94.2 points per 100 possessions. It's in stark contrast to the 100.3 points per 100 possessions they allow when he's off it. (League average this year for defensive efficiency is 100.3, so one could say MWP is the difference between an average defense and a very good one.)

But just as he strengthens the Lakers defense, he's been a liability on the offensive end of the floor.

MWP's shooting woes this season are hardly news. He's shooting 34 percent from the field, 21 percent on 3-pointers, and 51 percent from the free-throw line -- all career lows.

Only two NBA players are shooting worse this season using true shooting percentage, which adjusts for the value of free throws and 3-pointers (minimum 500 minutes played). MWP's 39.8 true shooting percentage trails only the Nets' Shawne Williams (37.2) and the Knicks' Toney Douglas (38.9). League-average true shooting percentage is 53.0.

For offensive purposes, the Lakers would be better giving Matt Barnes more minutes if they're looking for a scoring spark. The Lakers average 102.8 points per 100 possessions when Barnes is on the court compared to the 96.7 when MWP is on the court.

Lastly, player efficiency rating (PER) reveals who's been more efficient between MWP and Barnes. PER is a rating of a player's per-minute statistical production.

Barnes has the highest PER (13.9) among Lakers at the 3-position, more than twice that of World Peace (6.4). The league-average PER for a season is 15.0, so while both are below average, Barnes has been the more efficient player.

Assuming neither MWP nor Barnes can overcome the deficiencies they bring when they enter the game (for MWP, offense; for Barnes, defense), the workload should be determined situationally, not unlike lefty/righty platoons in baseball.

If scoring is what the Lakers need, then Barnes should get the nod. But if it's stops they need, Metta World Peace is the better option.

End of game proves to be a thorn for Rose

January, 29, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information
For once, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose didn’t come through when needed most.

Rose was 3-for-13 from 10 or more feet away, including a miss of the potential game-tying shot with three seconds left in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Heat.

Rose is a 41 percent shooter on shots from that distance at home, but just 31 percent on the road.

Rose, who did finish with 34 points, also missed a pair of free throws late in the game, snapping his string of fourth-quarter free-throw perfection. Prior to those misses, Rose was 29-for-29 on fourth-quarter foul shots this season.

LeBron James led the Heat with 35 points, along with 11 rebounds and five assists. James recorded his 64th career game with a 30/10/5 combination, by far the most in the NBA since his rookie season, 2003-04. The player with the next-most in that span is Dirk Nowitzki with 23.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, James has had at least 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 22 straight games dating to last season, the fifth-longest such streak in NBA history and the longest since Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson in 1965.

James was 6-for-7 from inside five feet and was 5-for-8 from beyond 15 feet, matching his best field goal percentage of the season (63 percent) from the latter distance.

The Heat had seven dunks Sunday, all from James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Heat are 5-0 when recording at least seven dunks this season.

Kobe sets a record

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant set a franchise record in Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabaar as the team’s all-time leader in field goals made. Bryant had 14 field goals and 35 points in the win.

Bryant is now the team’s all-time leader with 9,946 field goals made, 11 more than Abdul-Jabaar. Bryant is 54 field goals shy of becoming the 10th player to make 10,000 field goals in the NBA.

Magic stage another disappearing act
For the fourth time in five games this week, the Orlando Magic offense disappeared in the second half. Sunday, the Magic led by 3 at the half but ended up losing to the Indiana Pacers by 21.

In their last four losses, the Magic have been outscored by an average of 50 to 28 in the second half and have shot just 29 percent from the field.

Plus-Minus Note of the Night
Lakers forward Metta World Peace scored only two points, but was a plus-19 in a 106-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Metta World Peace
World Peace
This was the second time in the last three games that the Lakers had a close win and World Peace had a good plus-minus. He was a plus-20 despite scoring only three points in a 96-91 win over the Clippers on Wednesday.

Also, Cleveland Cavaliers rookie guard Kyrie Irving had 23 points and six assists, including the game-winning layup to close a 12-0 run in an 88-87 win over the Boston Celtics.

The Cavaliers outscored the Celtics by eight points in his 33 minutes of play. Irving has now had three straight games with a positive plus-minus rating.

Cavaliers backup forward Mychal Thompson, playing in his second career NBA game, was the only player on the team to have a better plus-minus than Irving in this contest. He was a plus-9 in his 12 minutes.