As Mike Bresnahan of The Times reports, the Lakers chose not to waive Metta World Peace via the “amnesty” provision introduced under the new collective bargaining agreement this off-season. I, for one, think this is a good move for the Lakers, and here’s why:
Financially, yes, the Lakers will be hit with a luxury tax this year. But, at the same time, they wouldn’t have been able to realistically replace Metta World Peace with a player of equal or better talent; the options just aren’t there in free agency. There is a possibility that the Lakers will try to use World Peace as a throw-in for a trade involving Dwight Howard, but if not, and World Peace is still a member of the Lakers next season, it’s still the best move for Los Angeles.
Forget the elbow to the Thunder’s James Harden (or at least try to). Forget the horrible start World Peace got off to last season. Try to even forget all the crazy Tweet-a-thons Metta randomly puts on, and underneath it all lies a solid small forward who brings passion to a sometimes unengaged team.
Yes, they now have Steve Nash, who brings his own type of fire to the game, but it’s not the same kind that World Peace brings. On a team that features a methodical Pau Gasol and a sometimes disengaged Andrew Bynum (for now, anyway), the Lakers need the raw passion of one Metta World Peace.
Believe it or not, his style of play is a perfect complement to the rest of the team; a style in which Kobe Bryant voiced his approval of towards the end of last season. After Derek Fisher was traded away, Bryant went on record saying that the one person he trusts to leave it all out on the court alongside him was World Peace.
Similarly, after Fisher’s departure I noticed a change in Metta. I saw him becoming more vocal with the rest of the team; especially the younger guys. He seemingly stepped into a leadership position–one that was lacking at the time. He obviously got too carried away just one game before the regular season was over, which hurt his team when it needed him the most.
However, despite that mishap, he appeared to become the team’s emotional leader. Not to mention that all season long he appeared to be the team’s defensive coordinator, communicating and pointing out to his teammates where they needed to be on the defensive end of the floor; which is fitting for someone who has made a career of his defensive abilities.
Despite World Peace’s defensive abilities (he may be on the decline in that area, but he’s still one of the better perimeter defenders in the league), Metta actually finished the season strong offensively. In his last seven games before the infamous seven game suspension, World Peace averaged 16 points on 45 percent shooting. At the time, World Peace attributed his elevated level of play at the time to his getting back into shape after coming into training camp nearly 20 pounds overweight by his standards. It definitely looked like he was back in shape as well, as he threw down more dunks in April than he did in all of the 2010-2011 season (yes, I counted).
After the season, World Peace admitted he suffered a back condition during the off-season which limited his conditioning, and pledged to come back quicker and more in shape for the upcoming season. If there’s one thing I never doubt about World Peace, it’s his ability to take care of his body when motivated. And apparently, he has been working out at the Lakers’ practice facility this summer and his shot is looking good as well–which is obviously a great thing.
Metta World Peace is somewhat of an enigma, but that’s what makes him the Lakers’ X-Factor. When he’s playing the right way and his defense is clicking, he makes the Lakers an extremely tough force to beat. He usually hounds players on the wing, but when his offensive game is on point and he’s dunking on opponents and getting fans hyped up with his entertaining celebrations, he adds a completely different dynamic to the Lakers; a dynamic of toughness fueled by a passionate fire that is necessary for this Lakers’ team going forward.
They say some of the best moves are the moves you don’t make. Once again, this is another good move by Mitch Kupchak this off-season.