Metta World Peace works with Julius Randle and Tarik Black on June 3rd, 2015
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

MWP Brings Veteran Presence

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

“The Lakers sign Metta World Peace” seems like a headline from 2009, when they actually did sign a guy named Ron Artest to replace Trevor Ariza at small forward from their championship-winning squad.

It was the key offseason addition that paid off handsomely when Artest played a critical role throughout the 2009-10 season that culminated in his game-clinching three-pointer against Boston in Game 7 of the Finals.

But this year, it’s a far different scenario.

Metta is essentially being brought in as a veteran leader and locker room guy, looking to nab one of the final few roster spots that typically go either to young guys on a flier or to veterans who can play a few minutes, but are in some ways closer to assistant coaches on the floor. L.A. have plenty of young guys, so it does make some sense to add a veteran presence they think can be impactful for those young players.

Towards that end, a Yahoo! article detailed how impressed L.A.’s brass has been with MWP’s work with Julius Randle at the team’s facility. The No. 7 overall pick raved about MWP, and how much he’s already helped his development with his attention to detail, his work ethic, his knowledge of the game, his fitness.

Kobe Bryant has been helping Randle and the other young players, too, and he has to be excited about having a lieutenant of sorts in MWP to reinforce his message, somebody that’s been through playoff battles at his side. Bryant’s always spoken glowingly of MWP, because if there’s one thing Kobe respects, it’s somebody who brings his absolute best effort to the floor and to the practice facility every day, and doesn’t back down to anybody. That’s how his favorite teammate of all time, Derek Fisher, was, and it’s how MWP still is. It’s also less likely that somebody disregards Kobe’s message and lead when World Peace is on the team bus.

The flip side to this is that by putting a veteran – Metta is 35 – that’s on the absolute tail end of his career on the end of the roster, it can take time away from a young, developing player. It’s a balance that every GM deals with, one of which Kupchak is very much aware.

“We have to be careful not to use a roster spot too early, because we have a lot of young kids that we’re going to bring to camp and we don’t want to put ourselves in a bind by (taking up roster spots) from talented (young players),” Kupchak explained. “He can still be very effective on the court, but these are scrimmages that last 15-20 minutes and not a full-court, NBA game. As a person, I’ve gotten to know him very well and I think he’d be great in the locker room with young players.”

And that’s the bottom line.

Again, it’s not like the Lakers are lacking in young, developing players on the roster. Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Anthony Brown, Larry Nance Jr., Robert Upshaw, Jabari Brown … even Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black will all get their chances in training camp. The ones that play better will demand minutes in the actual regular season.

It’s L.A.’s hope that Metta World Peace helps those players along the way, certainly not that he impedes anybody’s chance in the NBA.

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