World Peace talks James Harden
LOS ANGELES -- Metta World Peace has no interest in making a bury-the-hatchet peace gesture with Oklahoma City's James Harden at the onset of the Los Angeles Lakers' Western Conference semifinals series against the Thunder.
"I don't shake substitutes' hands," World Peace said after contributing 15 points, five rebounds and four steals in the Lakers' 96-87 Game 7 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday in his first appearance since serving a seven-game suspension for his elbow to Harden's head last month.
Harden is not just any substitute of course, he's the Sixth Man of the Year who suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the Lakers' 114-106 double-overtime win over the Thunder on April 22 after World Peace's elbow following a dunk dropped him to the floor.
World Peace issued a statement of apology following the incident and told reporters in his first public comments about the suspension nearly two weeks ago that he reached out to check on Harden's health through a third party.
However, World Peace has yet to contact Harden directly and said that he has no plans to even acknowledge the Thunder's versatile wing player on the court before Game 1 on Monday.
"My concern is executing the coaches' game plan and that's what my concern is," World Peace said when asked if he had any thoughts about facing Harden for the first time since the suspension.
The mercurial Lakers forward went on to say that the entire Thunder team has a habit of ignoring the common NBA ritual of showing mutual respect before tipoff with a handshake or fist pound.
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"I shake everybody's hand before the game, but Oklahoma City, they don't shake hands," World Peace said. "Only some of them, but I don't think they really shake hands before the game. Kendrick Perkins and now (Russell) Westbrook don't shake hands either. (Russell) used to shake hands, but now he don't shake hands anymore."
World Peace said that his failed handshake attempts with Perkins date back to the 2010 Finals when Perkins was a member of the Boston Celtics.
"I used to go and shake hands," World Peace said. "I've been playing against Kendrick forever. Kendrick, he'll never shake your hand so I'd have to go and find Kendrick and shake his hand. In Boston, every game I'd have to go to him and say, 'Hey,' and then tap him on the butt. He don't touch my hand. But, I'm getting tired of making that walk."
World Peace also tweaked Harden after the Lakers' shootaround on Saturday when asked an unrelated question about what response he's received from fans via social media during his suspension.
"I don't want support for what I did," World Peace said. "I still love my fans, but I don't want to be supported for (that). Even though he came and ran up behind me and he's done that before to Tyson Chandler and other players and he flopped even in the series (against Dallas) in the first round, but I don't want support for that."
Harden averaged 18.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game on 50.0 percent shooting from the field and 46.2 percent shooting from 3-point range in the Thunder's sweep of the Mavericks in the first round, which included 29 points in the close-out Game 4.
World Peace was not worried about a potential hostile environment at Chesapeake Energy Arena in light of the history between him and Harden.
"That's not my concern," World Peace said. "That's their concern. Freedom of America, freedom of speech, freedom to really do what you want to do. That's why it's a great country."
Kobe Bryant, however, acknowledged that the opposing crowd will be a factor the Lakers need to account for.
"It's going to be intense," Bryant said. "The crowd is obviously going to have a field day with that. I'm sure their players will generate some type of energy from it. For us, we just got to keep our poise and do what we do."
While World Peace said he didn't plan to shake Harden's hand there is one reserve Bryant will surely seek out with some pregame love: Derek Fisher.
"It's like brothers," Bryant said of Fisher who he was drafted into the league with in 1996 and won five championships alongside in the backcourt before Fisher was traded to the Houston Rockets along with a first-round draft pick for Jordan Hill in March. "You compete with your brother. Somebody has got to win, you rather it be you. Somebody has got to have bragging rights in the summer time. In terms of what he brings to the team, his experience, his leadership. I don't really know what their locker room dynamics are over there but with us, he was a true inspiration for the entire ballclub."