A man in a brown suit holding a briefcase got Metta World Peace’s attention as he walked down a street in downtown Indianapolis on Monday wearing a black Lakers sweatshirt.
“Hey Ron,” the man said. “Good to see you here, Ron.”
A block away another man poked his head out of his car’s window to shout the same name in exchange for a wave.
“What’s up, Mr. Artest,” a man wearing a Chicago Cubs cap said. About an hour earlier, a woman told him she wished the Indiana Pacers had brought him back.
He’s still Ron Artest here, in the town where he was at his best as a player despite a tumultuous tenure. And World Peace, who changed his name in 2011, doesn’t take any issue with that.
“I just changed my name for me,” he said while walking down the brick pathway that encircles a neoclassical memorial to fallen soldiers and sailors in Indianapolis’ monument circle. “I don’t like to try to change people’s minds.”
On Tuesday the Lakers will play the Pacers and World Peace will play as a visitor, as he has done for the last 10 seasons, ever since his participation in the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills led to his departure from the franchise.
But Indianapolis still holds meaning for World Peace. In fact, it was only this year that he finally sold his home in a suburb of the city.
“We held it for a while,” World Peace said. “My kids, they consider Indiana home, too. My daughter was born here. Everybody’s got an attachment.”
That fans remember him fondly makes him feel good. They remember, as he does, that he was at his best as a basketball player here. It was with the Pacers that World Peace was selected the NBA’s defensive player of the year in 2004.
“I was amazing,” World Peace said. “My defense, my offense, they had never seen it. Not really. I was the last defensive player of the year here. I think I got the highest individual award here. They remember that, to have one of the best on your team. It’s going to be, somebody might surpass what I’ve done here. There were games when I was getting eight steals and 25 points. It was pretty cool. For me it was fun.”
As he looks back on a career that spans 17 seasons, there might be some part of him that wishes things ended differently between him and the Pacers. If it does, that stays buried mostly.
“Something’s always gonna happen,” World Peace said. “Don’t regret anything because whether you go through it or someone else goes through it, it’s going to happen.”
The Lakers will be at full strength against the Pacers. Rookie Brandon Ingram felt healthy coming out of Sunday’s game in Oklahoma City. There was some question about his availability a because of a sore right knee Friday, after the first road game. Point guard Jose Calderon also emerged from the game against the Thunder feeling healthy. Calderon sat out the first two games because of a left calf strain. … Coach Luke Walton used a long film session Monday to emphasize the team’s problems with its transition defense during Sunday’s game. The Thunder had 26 fastbreak points to the Lakers nine. … The musical selection toward the end of Monday’s practice featured soul singer Al Green. While veteran Nick Young, who is 31, danced to the music even as he shot free throws, other Lakers weren’t so well versed. Said Walton of the 21-year-old Julius Randle: “Julius looked at me and he was like I don’t know this.”