Metta World Peace rejoins Lakers organization in new role for fan favorite
When the Lakers parted ways with Metta World Peace last spring, they told him they would not bring him back as a player. But they said if he wanted it, there was a role for him in the organization.
On Monday, World Peace joined the staff of the Lakers’ development-league team, the South Bay Lakers, as a player development coach.
World Peace, 37, played six seasons with the Lakers. In his first stint with the organization, from 2009 to 2013, he started 270 of 298 games and helped the Lakers win the second of two straight championships.
In his second stint with the Lakers, from 2015 to 2017, he played just 60 games, almost all off the bench, and mostly served as a mentor. In both of those seasons, World Peace entered training camp needing to make the team and forced his way on to the roster. Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers’ general manager at the time, said last September that he didn’t expect World Peace to make the roster in either season.
Last season, Coach Luke Walton considered whether to release World Peace and ask him to return on the coaching staff. Not ready to hang up his sneakers just yet, World Peace made clear he wanted to play and the Lakers gave him the opportunity.
Throughout the season he worked with the Lakers’ young players, offering advice and an example. Walton especially liked what World Peace represented — a player who had reached a low point in his career, once suspended for most of a season for fighting with fans during a game, and recovered to become a champion.
Defenseless first halves
Walton’s list of grievances with his team’s defense on Sunday night aligned with the same issues the Lakers have been dealing with in their first three games, especially at the outset.
In the first halves, they are among the worst teams in allowing points in the paint (30), points off turnovers (12.3) and fast-break points (11.7), ranking 28th out of 30 teams.
However, they are among the best teams in limiting second-chance points in the first half, tied for third allowing just 3.7.
Having given up 53, 73 and 68 points at halftime, the Lakers have a first-half defensive rating of 111, which means they are allowing 111 points per 100 possessions. Surprisingly, that is not the worst in the NBA or even in the bottom four. The Suns, Mavericks, Pacers and Wizards all have worse first-half defensive ratings than the Lakers.
The Lakers’ defensive rating in the second half, however, is much better (102.6, 12th best), leaving them with an overall rating of 107, which ranks 22nd.
The Lakers’ defensive rating was last in the NBA last season, and among the bottom three in the previous three seasons.
Another area for improvement: Through their first three games, the Lakers have been worst in the league at defending shots within six feet of the basket. Opponents are making 66.4% of contested field goals from that range, according to NBA.com statistics.
Randle hadn’t responded especially well to his reserve role. But on Sunday, Walton saw a change in Randle’s attitude during their afternoon shootaround. Randle then played a key role in a unit that erased New Orleans’ 21-point lead; he finished with 11 points, making five of six shots, a steal, two blocked shots, two rebounds and two turnovers.
“It was his best game so far,” Walton said. “Like any player in this league, I think he’s been a little frustrated that he wasn’t starting. …His energy level just seemed right tonight. I told him, you not starting, that’s our decision. Don’t let those things weigh you down. When you play is our call. Try to do your best, even if you’re angry, to go in with a clear mind.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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