Two years after he left the Lakers, Metta World Peace has signed a non-guaranteed contract to return to the team he helped make a champion. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that the Lakers deal for World Peace is for one year.
That World Peace is back with Los Angeles is the worst kept secret in the NBA. He has been in the training facility most of the summer despite the optics. Many assumed his career was done when he played in China last season.
Not done, not yet. A frequent El Segundo mainstay in the hot drought laden months, World Peace has been instrumental in helping Lakers forward Julius Randle recover his game after a brutal broken leg injury stole Randle’s rookie year.
World Peace as a mentor is something new in his NBA career, a career identified by his lack of impulse control, the punch he threw at the Palace in Auburn Hills, his Defensive Player of the Year award, his identification and self-awareness of his own mental health issues along with treatment, and his joyous personality which made him a fan favorite in Los Angeles. He is kind hearted and generous to a fault which goes a long way with fans that yearn for athletes to care about them.
But the idea of Metta World Peace, the basketball player, is something altogether different. Playing a lot of minutes is far-fetched pie in the sky thinking. First, he’s 35 years old. Second, he’s 35 years old. He left the league because he was a slow player who couldn’t make shots. With the Knicks he was a 39% shooter, pretty standard for a player who has lost his athleticism. Add to that mix, his defense was sup-bar. He was waived mid-season. World Peace went to China last year and played in 15 games, averaging 19 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals.
Julius Randle is a believer in Metta the instructor.
“He isn’t biting on anything. He has the greatest hands I’ve ever seen play. You got to give him everything to get a bucket on him. Everything…He’s going to guess everything right. He disrupts your rhythm. You’re going to have to make the tough shot over him.”
What Mitch Kupchak and company are hoping for is that the toughness that World Peace crafted a career around rubs off on the young Lakers; the worst thing they can be known as is soft. But can Metta bottle up his brand of on-court craziness and lack of impulse control? His antics always hid what a smart basketball player he really was and how in the clutch he delivered.
That particular attribute has endeared him to the Lakers faithful. World Peace drilled a three pointer with everything on the line in a game 7, against the hated Celtics. Whatever happens during training camp, whether he earns a spot or whether he is just a mentor that is sadly let go in late October, World Peace will still be adored by the fans who are grateful for his efforts in the Lakers glory years.
This is something altogether different; no glory here. Except Byron Scott seems allergic to younger players when a tough, defensive minded veteran is on the bench. Just ask Jeremy Lin.
So Metta World Peace may be in Lakers land longer than anyone thinks. This may be the beginning of 82 games in which Metta World Peace entertains the press corp with his unusual wit and humor, bullies players on the post, makes the occasional shot while missing a lot more, ambles up the court to give an elbow, and teaches the young Lakers what mental toughness really is. Anything is possible. He already predicted he’d return to the NBA.
“I came in my prime (to China) so I can try to come back to the NBA like next year.”
No more next year talk for the NBA champion. He’s back.
photo via llananba