Metta World Peace proud to earn a minimum contract

Metta World Peace proud to earn a minimum contract

Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace warms up befoer a game on Dec. 22.

(David Zalubowski / AP)

Metta World Peace won a championship with the Lakers in 2010, euphorically proclaiming that everybody needed to “Recognize me!” He’s been the NBA’s defensive player of the year, his quick hands and sturdy frame making him a nightmare for opposing scorers back in the day.

What he accomplished this week might be the most impressive part of his career, if you ask him.

“This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done — get a minimum contract,” he said. “It really was. I had to ‘re-prove’ myself again.”

World Peace is one of the few feel-good stories in this Lakers season.

He signed a nonguaranteed contract in September, a few days before training camp, and became fully guaranteed Thursday, the deadline for the Lakers to keep or drop him.

Despite sitting out 16 of the last 17 games as a healthy scratch, World Peace, 36, still has the desire of an All-Star. Especially if you ask about his NBA return after a one-year layoff that included overseas stints.

“I didn’t have many options. Not many teams wanted me,” he said of the Lakers’ interest last fall. “That’s why when I play against other teams, I always shut down whoever I’m guarding. I take it personal. Especially the young guys.

“When we were playing Detroit, those little superstars over there tried to go by me. That didn’t happen. Everybody saw. I’ve got a lot of people marked on my defensive calendar.”

World Peace most recently played Tuesday against Golden State, making only two of 10 shots. He did not play Thursday against Sacramento or Friday against Oklahoma City. He’s averaging five points and 2.7 rebounds.

In a league where the average salary is about $5.5 million, World Peace is happy to earn $947,000.

“It was hard to get back in the league. I went down this path in September and Thursday was the official day,” he said. “It’s been hard work. This ranks up there among my most challenging situations.”

Bryant at home

Kobe Bryant finally broke the cycle, playing in a home game for the first time in a while Friday against Oklahoma City.

He had sat out three consecutive games at Staples Center because of a sore right shoulder before playing Thursday at Sacramento, his final trip to an old venue that carried plenty of playoff memories.

“I know him. He wants to play in every arena he can that it’s gonna be his last time there,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said.

Since declaring his desire to retire after this season, Bryant has played in 13 of 14 road games (92.3%) and six of nine home games (66.7%).

The lone road game he skipped was at Oklahoma City. The Lakers play there again in April.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan