Posted Apr 26 2012 11:52AM
Maybe as a stand-alone name, inspired by "Gladiator," maybe as part of Maximus Artest. But, Maximus. Or Achilles, from the character in "Troy." That was another option.
Ron Artest took both out for a mental test drive as he plotted a name change last summer. He liked the comedy value and the idea of something quirky, apparently feeling there hadn't been enough of that the first 12 seasons.
He ultimately chose Metta World Peace as a statement of hope that nations will get along, and, "I may keep that for a while, given everything that's going on around the world, which affects us here." Meaning there is a chance he will change names again, depending on the mood of the moment, the global mood, and just maybe whether Hollywood has done a big-budget Caesar flick.
"It depends where I'm at in my life," he said recently, before the latest hiccup in his career. "I have plans and sometimes I don't get a chance to reach my goals, so stages pass me by. I like comedy. I would do something funny."
It has always been about stages and the moments that he lets -- or doesn't let -- pass by. Chicago in 1999 and being forever grateful to be coached by Bill Cartwright, a statement World Peace would repeat many times through the years in a sign of loyalty. Auburn Hills, Mich., on Nov. 19, 2004, and the Malice in the Palace that resulted in an 86-game suspension and a permanent scar on his reputation.
Los Angeles on June 17, 2010, and the Game 7 win over the Celtics that culminated with then-Artest taking to the podium as an NBA champion and thanking the mental-health experts who helped him, a sign of his unvarnished honesty.
New York on April 26, 2011, and the announcement that he had won the J. Walter Kennedy Award for community work and citizenship.
Now we have Sunday in Los Angeles and the unprovoked attack on James Harden of the Thunder, a swinging elbow to the back of Harden's head that resulted in a seven-game suspension beginning with the regular-season finale Thursday in Sacramento.
World Peace wasn't even startled into looking back to see the accident he left behind, didn't bother to look to see Harden on the court, but he later offered genuine remorse via his Twitter account. No crafted, phony statement from a PR person. He's never been good with being shaped like that.
The incident with Harden was an obvious setback to an image that was in the process of being rehabilitated. He had been a bit off-key in the interim. But this was violence. This was different. This was too easy to draw a straight line to Auburn Hills.
The season already has been more difficult than World Peace might have imagined. He got a role change when new coach Mike Brown tried Devin Ebanks and Matt Barnes at small forward. World Peace finally got his old job back, but he is shooting 39.4 percent and admitting frustration over his role.
"My game is not showing anything," he recently told NBA.com. "But personally, I'm a team player. I'm going to do whatever it takes to win. My game is taking some criticism. But I don't care. I know for a fact nobody can guard me. They see me in practice. These guys can't guard me. These guys can't guard me.
"I like it here. I don't have a problem. The only thing that's frustrating for me is that as my career is winding down -- I've got maybe, I don't know, five more years -- athletically I'm still able to do things young guys can't do. I'm still able to guard people that the young guys can't guard and I still can take those guys on the block. They can't guard me on the block. I just don't get a chance to display it. For me, it's been frustrating because I want to destroy some of these guys playing, but I don't get that opportunity. I get that opportunity in big games, which is weird. In the big games, I don't get the opportunity. But when we play against the lesser competition, it doesn't come."
He is asked if he fits in with the Lakers and if he thinks he will be traded during the summer.
"I think I fit in anywhere, to tell you the truth," World Peace answered. "I think I fit in here. My game is not fitting in. But personally, my effort, my team mentality, yeah, that fits in. Before I got here, I was in Sacramento averaging a lot of points, then I went to Houston and I was coming off the bench. I had to go through that adversity. The last four years of my career have been really uncomfortable for me."
"Uncomfortable," he replied.
"I've never played with anybody like Kobe, first off. I hadn't ever played with a guy like that. There was an adjustment. Luckily, my defense was good enough. Right now, I've got more dunks than I've had in a couple years. I'm more athletic than I was. My game is really better right now. But it's not being displayed. I don't get a chance to display it. Which I'm fine with. I'm fine with that. But, if I wasn't on a team with as much talent as our players, I could put up good numbers. But it's just not important to me.
"It's my fault. I had a good thing going with a couple teams I was at. Being immature, I messed that up. When I was in Indiana, I had a good thing going. I had a good rhythm. I was comfortable. But then I had to go to other teams and I keep getting traded. I can't just go to other teams and, boom, be the [bleep], be the man. When I went to Sacramento, it was unique because Rick Adelman, he basically said, 'We're going to go as far as you take us.' So in Sacramento, you saw real things. Then when I got traded to Houston, I was coming off the bench. I wouldn't get in the game until two minutes left in the first quarter. My first shot was a brick and everybody's saying, 'He's washed up.' I had no rhythm. Then T-Mac got hurt, and what do I do? My numbers go up, I took the team, and I do what I gotta do. I averaged 20-something in the first round. Then I come to L.A. and I was the fifth or sixth option."
He never answered if he thinks he will be a Laker next season -- "That's not my choice." Maybe, he suggested, the Lakers will amnesty him, though that's unlikely to happen. Maybe, he quickly added, he will try the NFL if no NBA team wants him.
And maybe there will be another name change. Probably not before the end of his career, though -- his NBA career, at least -- and probably not back to Ron Artest. He prefers his son having that alone, to be his own man. But Maximus and Achilles are possibilities if the world gets it act together.
"Hopefully one day the world's more at ease with each other," Metta World Peace said. "Maybe one day the world will be like real calm."
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