Metta World Peace feels more comfortable with bench role
The safe route usually involved simply asking Metta World Peace to stay out of the way and not screw things up.
World Peace doesn't have to worry about that for now. Lakers Coach Mike Brown literally kept him out of the way by removing him from the starting lineup. But it comes with added responsibility.
In the Lakers' 96-71 victory Tuesday over the Utah Jazz, World Peace showed for the second consecutive game how that ideal might be more reachable than achieving world peace itself. His 14 points on five-of-nine shooting and five rebounds followed a 19-point effort in the Lakers' loss Monday to Sacramento. That shows he's more effective playing in the post than staying on an island and shooting isolated jumpers.
"That's the good thing about me," World Peace said. "I'm ready to adjust. I can be a starter and put up buckets, I can be a bench player or a role player. That don't matter."
But it does matter.
Before, the Lakers valued World Peace, then known as Ron Artest, simply for his defense. They tolerated his ill-advised shots, discomfort in the triangle offense and goofy antics simply because of that. After World Peace posted a career-low 8.5 points per game last season, however, the team considered waiving his three-year, $21.5-million contract through the amnesty clause.
But even as Brown has stripped his starting position away, he's given World Peace a bigger job description.
"At the free-throw line, Metta is calling them together and they have their little college huddle going on and then they break and then they go play great defense," Brown said. "So, Metta is taking on a leadership role with that second unit."
World Peace never held that influence with the starting lineup. He often mentions how he deferred to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, but World Peace also often remained unsure where to cut on the floor. He insisted on maintaining an indifference toward his scoring average, but he appeared unengaged when the offense didn't involve him. In turn, many of his Lakers teammates remained hesitant to pass him the ball, fearful of the consequences.
But for the Lakers' starters and World Peace himself, it appears both parties are more comfortable now.
"Our system before probably wasn't the best system for him," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "It took him a while to get adjusted to it. This system is more direct and to the point with certain acts. It simplifies the game a little bit for him. He can be a little bit more effective with this system."
In the last two games, World Peace has already shown that he has.
-- Mark Medina
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