Lakers Mailbag: Readers amused by Ron Artest changing his name to Metta World Peace
Every week, I'm going to clean out my inbox and answer a few Lakers-related questions. Whether it's about free agency, the Lakers' chances to win the NBA title next season or something offbeat, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or fire away in the comment threads below.
I was talkin' with another basketball fan (a neighbor), and we were discussing Ron Ron, a.k.a. Metta World Peace, and my neighbor pointed out that it seems to be that all defensive specialists are crazy. Rodman, Laimbeer, Metta. -- 63 Footer
That’s a very good observation, and I’d argue that’s what made all of those players so great. Rodman surely had anger and distraction issues, but under the right guidance -- Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen -- Rodman channeled his energy and emotion enough to be an endlessly dominating presence on the boards. Laimbeer’s defensive tactics were heavy-handed, but few could dispute that they were effective and set the Pistons’ identity as a hard-nosed and intimidating team. And Artest has become one of the top defensive players because of his rugged and physical play as well as his penchant for saying weird things to throw off his opponents. Their offbeat personalities often got them in trouble, but it served as a vital part in making them the effective players that they were.
Do you know why the Laker players have been so quiet (at least in the media) about the new coach? Has a gag order been placed on them? What are their opinions about Mike Brown? -- David Goldstone
A gag order hasn't been placed on them as far as I'm aware, but the silence speaks remarkable volumes. Granted, players are on vacation and aren't readily available during the off-season to speak with the media as they are during the season. In fairness to the Lakers, Artest and Matt Barnes have publicly expressed enough praise for the new head coach.
But the most important voice -- Kobe Bryant -- has maintained his silence. He declined comment to The Times’ Broderick Turner immediately after the hire. At an event promoting his foundation’s aim to help the homeless, Bryant insisted it “wasn’t the time nor the place” to discuss Brown. And this week, Bryant is holding his yearly summer camp in Santa Barbara without any media availability, a custom he usually holds each summer.
The Times’ Mark Heisler reported that Bryant’s silence points more to his frustration with the front office’s decision not to consult him about the coaching hire than any dissatisfaction with Brown. After Turner reported Bryant was initially “confused about the hire,” Heisler noted that Brown soon won him over.
The main thing that matters is how Bryant’s relationship with Brown evolves over time, but his refusal to comment on Brown goes beyond the fact he’s just on vacation. He’s sending a clear message.
As far as what the players actually think of Brown, it’s obviously hard to say since there have been very few comments. I suspect players will say the right things when training camp opens, touting his defensive philosophy and work ethic and pointing out that it’s unfair to put so much scrutiny on Brown alone because it would be hard for anyone to succeed Jackson. But the Lakers’ players will convey their true feelings once they go through a rough patch. That’s when they’ll reveal whether they fully trust Brown in trying to guide them to another championship.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Ron Artest disagrees with a referee's call during a playoff game against the New Orleans Hornets in April. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times