Metta World Peace gets ready to return to Lakers


DENVER — Metta World Peace couldn’t stop dripping, his breath coming in ragged heaves.

It was a quiet moment outside the Lakers locker room after the team shoot-around Sunday morning. World Peace had just finished getting banged around on the court by assistant coach Darvin Ham, a former NBA power forward.

If the Lakers close out their first-round series with the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, World Peace sits Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series against Oklahoma City.

Then he’s back, for better or for World Peace.

He’s trying to do the right things after his latest relapse with the NBA disciplinary office, a seven-game suspension for elbowing Oklahoma City’s James Harden in the head.

The Lakers watched the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto fight as a team Saturday night at their hotel. World Peace paid for the fight and also bought food and drinks for the team, a small sum for a guy being paid $6.8 million, but a gesture nonetheless.

Maybe he did it because he felt guilty for sitting out so many games. He says teammates have treated him the same since the suspension began.

“They’re just normal. Everybody’s a veteran,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like anything [happened].”

World Peace’s absence wouldn’t have been such a big deal earlier this season or even into late March.

But April brought his best stretch of basketball since joining the Lakers, World Peace averaging 14.1 points and 32.2 minutes last month. He said Sunday he was still “definitely in good shape” and could pick up where he was before the suspension.

“I don’t really think about it much, to tell the truth. Whatever,” he said.

He plans to appear Monday on the “Conan”talk show, making up for a previously scheduled appearance last month.

“I was going on there to do comedy and when I got suspended, it wasn’t time for comedy,” he said. “I’m not going to do comedy [Monday]. I’m just going to go on.”

Horse play

Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant bought into partial ownership of a horse for one year at Santa Anita race track at a Lakers charity event last month.

The kicker: The trainer is Doug O’Neill, who won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday with I’ll Have Another.

“Our stock went up,” Gasol said Sunday, smiling.

The horse in which they invested, Siempre Mio, is a 4-year-old.

“Our horse is a little older so I don’t know how much he can win, but we have a good trainer, so that’s a good start,” Gasol said. “I guess one day we’ll have to see him race and go check him out.”

Wrong Andrew

After further review, Andrew Bynum finished all alone in fourth place in the voting for most improved player after Ernst & Young accidentally credited a first-place vote to Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut instead of Bynum, the NBA announced Sunday.

The extra vote allowed Bynum to break a tie with Detroit center Greg Monroe. Orlando forward Ryan Anderson won the award.