The Lakers have missed Metta World Peace in recent years, not just for his skill on defense, but for his often unfiltered worldview.
After the team’s light practice Saturday, World Peace gave his take on today’s NBA.
“I remember I came into the NBA in 1999, the game was a little bit more rough. The game now is more for kids. It’s not really a man’s game anymore,” World Peace said. “The parents are really protective of their children. They cry to their AAU coaches. They cry to the refs, ‘That’s a foul. That’s a foul.’
“Sometimes I wish those parents would just stay home, don’t come to the game, and now translated, these same AAU kids whose parents came to the game, ‘That’s a foul.’ These kids are in the NBA. So now we have a problem. You’ve got a bunch of babies professionally around the world.”
World Peace wasn’t quite done.
“It’s no longer a man’s game,” he said. “It’s a baby’s game. There’s softies everywhere. Everybody’s soft. Nobody’s hard no more. So, you just deal with it, you adjust and that’s it.”
World Peace did note that Lakers second-year forward Julius Randle is an exception to the rule.
“He’s a man,” World Peace said. “He’s Julius Randle. The one and only. The great R-A-N-D-L-E, first name J-U-L-I-U-S.
“His ceiling is as high as destiny. We don’t know because he’s only 19. I don’t want to predict the future because so many great things are going to happen from now until he’s like 30.”
World Peace was close. Randle turned 20 last November.
On a nonguaranteed $1.5-million minimum contract, World Peace is hoping to make the Lakers’ 15-man roster for opening night. The team currently has 19 players almost midway through the preseason.
In his debut, World Peace gave the team’s second unit a boost against Utah, leaping over courtside seats while chasing down a loose ball last Tuesday. The Lakers would ultimately lose in overtime.
“I forgot that I was on a nonguaranteed contract when I dived,” World Peace said. “My brother reminded me, ‘What are you doing? You’re on a nonguaranteed contract. You’re going to kill yourself.’
“I was like ‘Oh wow, that’s right,’ but that’s the only way I know how to play, so I don’t care about a nonguaranteed contract. I just want to play hard.”
The last roster spot might come down to World Peace or Jabari Brown, a 22-year-old shooting guard who had some good games for a barren Lakers team at the end of last season. Brown also has a nonguaranteed contract.
The Lakers will be watching. They have five more exhibitions to evaluate World Peace, who turns 36 next month.
“I think he just needs to show us that he’s still Metta, that he can defend at a very high level at multiple positions, that he can still get up and down the floor and that he can play within the offense,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “I think we already know he can be a great teammate. He’s been great at training camp with our young guys. We want to know if he can still play at a high level. That’s the biggest thing.”
Three Lakers are doubtful for Sunday’s exhibition against Maccabi Haifa at Staples Center: Brandon Bass (bruised knee), Marcelo Huertas (strained hamstring) and rookie D’Angelo Russell, who could be seen running after Saturday’s practice but might still be sidelined because of a bruised glute.... Former UCLA player Dijon Thompson had 17 points as Maccabi Haifa lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, 97-84, last Thursday. Haifa had 20 steals as a team.
Times staff writer Mike Bresnahan contributed to this report.