Another chance for World Peace
Back in shape, Los Angeles Lakers forward anticipating increased opportunities
At the moment, MWP stands for Math Word Problem, as Metta World Peace is working through the type of exercise you used to see on elementary school tests.
"If [Kobe's] not going to average 100, then there's going to be points out there, right?" World Peace says. "If he scores 30 a night, that's 70 points left."
World Peace has done the calculations. More important, he's put in the perspiration, logging the requisite work to shed what he says is 20 pounds. The math part is much easier: Subtract Kobe Bryant's points from the 100 or so the Lakers will average, then divide the rest among the remaining rotation players.
"There's points out there," World Peace says, and he intends to get his share of them.
With Bryant missing the Lakers' second preseason game and Dwight Howard sitting out both, one of the only things to take away from these exhibitions is that World Peace appears to be a legitimate threat. Defending the Lakers won't be as simple as abandoning World Peace to focus on everyone else.
"This is not just about the rock stars," World Peace says. "We have other players that are really good. I am coming to the game with a guitar during the regular season. Every game, I'll have a guitar."
Once a scorer, always a scorer's mentality, and World Peace is a guy who averaged 20 points as recently as five years ago. But the same amount of touches won't always be there, especially while playing with Bryant, the league leader in usage rate for two of World Peace's three seasons in Los Angeles. Even with one of the best distributors in the league, Steve Nash, on board, there's Howard to command the ball down low, in addition to Pau Gasol. So it's easy to overlook World Peace when thinking about the Lakers' offensive options.
"How are they going to forget about me?" World Peace counters. "That's impossible. They try to. People purposely try to forget about me. But that's impossible. It's just impossible."
Only because he makes it impossible. If he didn't feel the need to stand out, Ron Artest wouldn't have changed his name to Metta World Peace. His yearning for attention wouldn't manifest itself in every way from auctioning his 2010 championship ring for charity, or cracking an elbow to the dome of James Harden. On the court, that translates into him wanting the ball and shooting the ball.
The problem was his shots were often one of the worst outcomes for the Lakers' offense, as his overall shooting percentage dropped to a career-low 39.4 percent in 2011-12. It reached the point that even layups became dicey propositions.
World Peace blamed his conditioning, which included an admittedly excessive amount of margaritas during last year's lockout.
"That first step, that extra step, the push-off and then finishing I couldn't do it," he says. "I couldn't do it. And then a couple of years ago, my back was hurting, so I wasn't able to work hard in the summer, which is like my bread and butter, the summertime. This summer I was able to work hard."
And sometimes bad makes for better. I thought of that principle the other day while listening to the latest album from World Peace's Queensbridge homeboy, Nas. A nasty divorce and hefty child support payments left Nas wounded, raw and hungry, and that edge created the artistic triumph "Life is Good."
The NBA version of heartbreak is losing early in the playoffs. Bryant said that in the locker room immediately after the Lakers' second-round exit in Oklahoma City it was World Peace who spoke up about the need to turn that pain into hard work. Then World Peace followed through in the summer, even while leaving a Twitter trail of adventures in Las Vegas and Vancouver.
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He also ate right. At an only-in-L.A.-moment Thursday night, World Peace (in a room that included Wayne Gretzky, Matt Kemp, Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson's children) was explaining his diet philosophy to David Arquette.
"You have to feed your liver," World Peace said to a captivated Arquette.
Feeding your liver means lots of grapefruit, and chopping up and eating whole cloves of garlic. Doesn't sound very tasty, but the results are great: World Peace says he weighs about 250 pounds, and he is visibly leaner than last year.
You can see the impact on the court. In the Lakers' preseason game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, he made 12 of 24 shots. He's getting past his man and scoring at the rim with both hands.
He might get more chances than you think. The first day the media got a chance to watch assistant coach Eddie Jordan implement the offense with the five starters, there was a noticeable amount of action involving Gasol and World Peace -- with Bryant standing far away from the ball on the other side. "This is an equal-opportunity offense, so Metta's going to get some looks and some touches," Lakers coach Mike Brown says. "We have some things where we'll be able to post up a guy like Metta, post up a guy like Kobe."
Or as World Peace put it, "It's going to be looks. When you're in shape looks."
That's the way the equation works out in Metta Math.
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