Metta World Peace shouldn't start
His top-of-the-key three-pointer sealed a crucial victory. His energy and physical play provided a needed spark. His penchant for finding open teammates ensured a solidly-run offense.
Metta World Peace's play in the Lakers' 96-91 victory Wednesday against the Clippers reflected everything needed in a starter. So much that Lakers Coach Mike Brown openly entertained the idea that World Peace could return to the starting lineup after spending all of this season as the team's sixth man. But World Peace demonstrated in a 100-89 loss Saturday to the Milwaukee Bucks why that wouldn't help the Lakers.
Just when World Peace believed he had turned a corner in his focus and conditioning, he scored little (four points), shot ill-advised three-pointers (one for five) and provided the worst plus-minus rating. In other words, the same unreliable output he's delivered most of the season.
That's why I initially thought it was a good idea for World Peace to keep his starting spot entering the 2011-12 season. But his play has proved that wasn't a good option. World Peace's career-low 5.3 points per game would drop even more as a starter. His few quality showings have hinged on operating in the post and that hardly works with the starting unit, since Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol have assumed more of the load in that area. And World Peace no longer appears as capable defending a top scorer on a consistent basis. That makes it rather pointless to match him up with the opposing team's top player.
Meanwhile, Lakers forward Matt Barnes has shown he's the most dependable choice to start at small forward. He may also suffer from inconsistency, particularly from his poor three-point shooting and his overly aggressive fouls. Still, Barnes has been efficient in finding offense on off-ball cuts to the basket, putbacks and timely passes. Any mistakes he does commit will hardly make or break the outcome of the game.
Of course, World Peace has hardly been a leader on the bench, either, which ranks last in the league scoring 19.7 points per game. But at least the Lakers can mitigate that shortfall with an even further reduced role.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Metta World Peace celebrates a basket against the Clippers on Wednesday at Staples Center. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press