Posted Feb 2 2012 10:03AM
In the latest incarnation -- after the name change, after the coaching change, after the lineup change -- Metta World Peace is starting again. It has been two games and Mike Brown said he hopes to stick with the Artist Formerly Known as Ron Artest at small forward, which means one thing:
The Lakers desperately need him to be dependable.
This is an important time for the team, 2-7 on the road and entering a stretch of six in a row and nine of 12 away from Staples Center, and an urgent time for the player. They are laboring but still potent and he is ... well, hmmm, what day is it? He is around. Put it that way.
Life with World Peace, of course, comes with uncertainty as a permanent attachment. Except now the Lakers need him more than ever. More than the first season, 2009-10, as they broke up a proven championship roster by letting Trevor Ariza walk as a free agent to sign Artest. More than the following season, as L.A. went for the rarified air of a three-peat.
This season, this third in the union with Kobe Bryant both had long before privately hoped for, the calm and structure of Phil Jackson is gone. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom is gone. There is less room for error in a world that does not fear the Lakers. The Lakers may not even be the best team in their own building any more.
The Odom departure, to the Mavericks in a trade that has yet to show any return, was a serious blow to the frontcourt and the overall depth. Production, or at least dependability, became a necessity and remained critical even after Josh McRoberts, Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy signed at forward. The Lakers, coming off a second-round playoff sweep that exposed a lack of focus, could not withstand the double loss of Odom and have World Peace adrift and still expect a long playoff run.
Before, the Lakers could really use World Peace. Now, they need him.
The season started with World Peace going from the opening lineup to a reserve role, first behind Devin Ebanks and then Matt Barnes, and seeming fine with it.
"There's not really a major adjustment," he said the first week. "We just play as one team. We really have no individuals. Everybody's playing together."
So, no adjustment?
"Not really," World Peace said. "It's just trying to win. That's the main thing. That we're all on the same page.
"When we won a championship, I had to bring it and I was a starter. It just depends. Whatever the coach needs. The main thing is that we play together. It's not about the starters or the bench. It's about the Lakers."
Until it was about the bench.
"Wow I never knew coming off the bench was tough ..." he reported Jan. 17 on Twitter. "Bench players get much more respect from me now ...."
"It tough not knowing when your going to play or when u r getting in the game. Once I find a pulse my game should speak loud..."
In 19 games as part of the second unit, World Peace averaged 5.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 21 minutes and shot 33.1 percent, including 16.1 percent on 3-pointers. He offered no consistency and provided no spark at a time the Lakers needed it most.
The move into the starting lineup wasn't so much a promotion as Brown hunting for solutions. The first two games as starter, he played 33 and 22 minutes and took as many 3s (three) as 2s. At least there was some consistency: World Peace missed every try behind the arc.
Brown got a change, not a solution. World Peace got his old job back by attrition, not based on performance. Now they'll both see where it leads as the Lakers hope for any sign of stability from the new/old small forward.
Good luck with that.
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