World Peace, Robinson Earn Final Roster Spots
One is a 36-year-old longtime Laker who has been in the league since the turn of the century. The other is 25 but already a journeyman, having played for five different teams in four years.
In spite of the odds, both Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson have made the Lakers’ opening night roster, surviving the final cut that brought a once 20-man squad to the NBA’s maximum of 15 players.
On Monday, the Lakers waived Yi Jianlian and Anthony Brown in a surprising move that let go of the team’s best-shooting big and the 34th-overall pick from last year’s draft.
Neither of those players shot or played particularly well in preseason, but head coach Luke Walton preferred to focus on what he feels that World Peace and Robinson will bring to his team.
With World Peace, he sees a player who can reach the younger Lakers in ways that the coaches can’t, recalling how he was able to vent to the likes of Karl Malone and Derek Fisher early on in his own playing career.
“You can have the best relationship in the world with your players; unless you’re out there going through what they go through, it’s a completely different relationship,” Walton said.
That was already seen last year when he established a relationship early on with then-rookie D’Angelo Russell — who said that the 36-year-old’s demeanor was the complete opposite of what he expected.
“When he’s off the court — in the locker room, on the bus, on the plane — he can really talk to guys and get to pick guys brains apart and see where guys really are,” Russell said. “He’s just a positive dude.”
On the floor, World Peace appeared in only two preseason games, logging 11 total minutes and missing all four of his shots from the field.
He also only averaged 5.0 points in his return to the Lakers last season, shooing a career-worst 31.1 percent.
Still, he remains in great physical shape thanks to a strict regiment which includes an avoidance of alcohol and junk food.
“I definitely had to earn it,” World Peace said. “Some people think it’s easy (like) spots somehow just magically appear in your favor. But I worked hard. And it’s weird: At the end of my career I feel like in the beginning.”
Squad is complete. and T-Rob are ready to roll. pic.twitter.com/cPxD1BhSeS— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 24, 2016
While World Peace didn’t play much during the preseason, Robinson made sure to stand out in his brief appearances.
Averaging only 7.6 minutes per night, he averaged 3.7 points and 3.7 assists, while shooting 8-of-12 in six games.
The Washington, D.C., native — who averaged 15.3 points and 13.0 rebounds over his final six games of last year — was strong on both sides of the glass, picking up 11 offensive rebounds and 11 defensive rebounds in 45 total preseason minutes.
In fact, when not applying a playing-time limit, Robinson’s 23.3 rebounds per 48 minutes were third among all players in the preseason, trailing only Alan Williams (25.1) and Andre Drummond (25.0).
“I don’t come in the gym and work on energy or rebounding,” Robinson said. “That’s something I’ve just got a knack for.”
Since he was drafted fifth overall by Sacramento in 2012, Robinson has already bounced around to Houston, Portland, Philadelphia and Brooklyn before landing in Los Angeles.
After coaching him for a month, Walton says he is “shocked” that he hasn’t been able to stick with a team.
He admitted that Robinson was “nowhere even on my radar” before deciding that the Lakers might as well invite him to training camp after he kept performing well during the team’s offseason pick-up games.
“You assume once you get to a more structured setting you’d see some reasons why he hasn’t stuck,” Walton said. “And he was great. He was great all throughout training camp.”
Walton said that Robinson impressed him by continuing to be involved even when he wasn’t getting playing time, providing a constant voice in huddles and at halftime.
Robinson said he wasn’t able to sleep Sunday night when he didn’t know if he was going to be cut, and that the drive to the Lakers’ practice facility felt like the longest yet.
But when he reached his destination, he was relieved to hear the news.
“I won’t say I’m excited because I made the team but nothing is done yet,” Robinson said. “I shouldn’t have been in that position, but things happen the way they happen and I work my way out of it.”
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