Commentary

Don't give up on World Peace yet

Despite his poor second season in L.A., it's too early to part with Metta World Peace

Updated: December 3, 2011, 12:17 PM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- This city isn't known for its long-term relationships.

People fall in and out of love here with the regularity of Kim Kardashian during sweeps week.

Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, is hoping he doesn't become another fleeting romance this month. After being the toast of Los Angeles following his performance in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, World Peace finds himself in a precarious position with the Lakers as the start of training camp approaches on Dec. 9.

[+] EnlargeMetta World Peace
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireYes, Metta World Peace is eccentric, and he had a bad second season in L.A. But his unique skillset still gives the Lakers an advantage when he's on the court.

If the Lakers choose to use their amnesty clause this season, which allows them to waive one player on their roster and have their full salary removed without salary cap and luxury tax repercussions, World Peace is believed to be one of the leading candidates, with Luke Walton the other possibility.

World Peace still has three years and close to $22 million left on his contract, while Walton has two years and close to $12 million left on his deal.

The Lakers can only use the amnesty clause on one player, and if they choose to use it this season they might use it on World Peace and hope Walton, who only played in 29 regular-season games last year because of a pinched nerve in his lower back, retires.

But Walton, 31, doesn't seem ready to retire just yet and was yearning for playing time last year when he was healthy, meaning if the Lakers use the amnesty clause this year, they would more likely use it on their well-compensated 12th man. That would be great news for Los Angeles and World Peace.

This is one Hollywood reality show that deserves another chance even though some would like to pull the plug on it after one subpar season.

There's no question World Peace's play last year was erratic, his name change in the offseason was peculiar and his performance on "Dancing with the Stars" during the lockout was dreadful, but we all knew that was part of the package.

He's as wildly inconsistent as he is entertaining and you have to accept the bad with the good. If you're willing to live with some boneheaded plays here and there, you just might be rewarded with a game-winning tip-in during the Western Conference Finals and a game-clinching three-pointer in the NBA Finals.

World Peace said he would take the blame if the Lakers didn't win a championship after he signed with the team in 2009, but he never said anything about being the scapegoat for the team during the duration of his five-year contract. There is plenty of blame to go around when looking at how the Lakers finished last season with a humiliating 36-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks, which put an exclamation point on their embarrassing second-round sweep.

This isn't to discount the fact that World Peace, by every statistical measure, had a worse season last year than he did in his first in Los Angeles. This isn't to ignore the fact that World Peace still looked lost at times last season in the Lakers' offense as he often dribbled the ball in circles before throwing it away. This isn't even to excuse his unorthodox behavior at times on and off the court, which routinely clashed with Phil Jackson.

This is simply a reminder that World Peace has and always will be a mixed bag and when he focuses on being a lockdown defensive player, which he was at times last season, and gets into a rhythm offensively, which was few and far between last season, the good far outweighs the bad.

Will World Peace be overpaid this season ($6.79 million) in comparison to his projected statistical output? Perhaps, but he is nowhere near the most overpaid player on the Lakers. Walton ($5.68 million), Steve Blake ($4 million) and Derek Fisher ($3.4 million) will all be making far more than they probably will be producing next season.

With three years left on Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol's contracts, this isn't the time to be pinching pennies when it comes to a player who has started all 191 games he has played in for the Lakers over the past two seasons, including the playoffs. This is the time to be squeezing as much as you can out of this veteran team during a lockout-shortened 66-game season and making another run at a championship.

World Peace is nowhere near the small forward he was when he won defensive player of the year in 2004, but he's the best option they have as a starter and allows Lamar Odom, who was named the sixth man of the year last season, to provide a spark off the bench. If the Lakers got rid of World Peace they would have to scramble for a suitable replacement, which simply isn't possible with their salary cap restraints. If they get rid of Walton, however, it wouldn't be hard to replace him at the end of the bench.

The Lakers might actually end up doing nothing at all and saving their amnesty card for the summer before the 2013-14 season, when the new tax rules get more punitive for big spenders like them. Before then, they might just try to keep the core group of the team intact.

Much like a World Peace breakaway dunk in the playoffs, however, there are no guarantees and anything is possible -- especially after the way he played last year following a storybook end to his first year in Los Angeles.

It would be easy to do the Hollywood thing in this rocky relationship and file for an early divorce, but if the Lakers are smart they'll do the right thing and give Peace another chance.

Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLA.com.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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