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Los Angeles Lakers: Metta Transforms from Pillsbury Doughboy to a Player Again

Mannie BarlingCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2012

Kobe and Metta World Peace
Kobe and Metta World PeaceHarry How/Getty Images

Metta World Peace made no secret of his opinion that the NBA lockout would last the entire season. Meta also made no secret of the fact that he did not workout at all from the end of the 2010-2011 season until he reported to the Lakers in December at the strike’s end.

He showed up for camp looking more like the Pillsbury Dougboy than a basketball player. He bricked so many shots that Laker fans dedicated a wall in the L.A. Live complex to him.

Except for a second-game tease in Sacramento, World Peace could not make a shot from anywhere on the court.

Worse yet, he was so out of shape, his feet did not leave the ground until late February. He was, as I nicknamed him, "Metta World Disaster."

His disastrous conditioning and the resulting poor play led to many Lakers’ early season losses, particularly on the road where Metta played more like a zombie in a "B" movie than a former Defensive Player of the Year. His stats in early season losses, 5.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG and a .354 field goal percentage, bear out his shortcomings.

Laker fans openly wondered why the Lakers did not use their amnesty clause selection on World Peace and save approximately $6.79 million in salary this year plus salary cap/luxury penalties of $1.50 per every dollar over the cap limit, a $17 million disaster.

Fans have roundly criticized Mike Brown for letting Metta play himself back into shape at the expense of victories instead of sitting him for a few weeks until he was in game shape much like the Dallas Mavericks did with Dirk Nowitzki.

Metta World Peace Guarding LeBron James
Metta World Peace Guarding LeBron JamesHarry How/Getty Images

In the last 10 games, World Peace has elevated his game by improving his shooting percentage to .475 and his average to 8.2 PPG. A nearly three-point-per-game increase may not sound like much, but the difference would have translated into several more Laker wins early in the season.

Brown’s patience was finally vindicated when the real Metta showed up for Lakers-Heat game on Sunday, March 4, 2012. Metta scored 17 points, picked up seven rebounds and shot .500 for the game. And there was no happier group about these stats and a victory than Laker fans across the Southland.

If Metta World Peace came out and averaged 17 points per game, the Lakers would be title contenders. Many fans feel that the Lakers would still be title contenders if Metta could score in low double figures every night and affect how other teams play Kobe on defense.

Many teams now have their small forward (Grant Hill and Shane Battier, for example) guard Kobe while the opposition’s smaller two guard covers Metta. Until now, Metta has been too out of shape to post up even smaller players.

Even Metta’s lackluster defensive presence has improved. LeBron James only scored 25 points in Sunday’s game, eight points more than Metta. The Heat needed James to not only outscore his man, but to set the table for his team’s offense, especially with Chris Bosh tending to family matters.

But Metta dogged LeBron James like a bad hairdo. He pushed him, shoved him and muscled him in a physical game made to order for Metta’s personal defensive style. King James looked more like one of his subjects than the King. He shot only 12-for-25 and was unable to get his teammates untracked. Metta once again looked like the defensive player who shut down Paul Pierce on the way to a Lakers title two years ago.

Metta Worl Peace Double Teaming LeBron James
Metta Worl Peace Double Teaming LeBron JamesHarry How/Getty Images

Is this a sign of hope for the Lakers this year and next year? It is important that the Lakers solve their problems at point guard and small forward for the next three years before Kobe gets too old to be a force.

Whether this is the last kick of a dying horse or just a hiccup for World Peace remains to be seen. But this is his first sign of life this season and the fans’ first sign of hope.

It will remain to be seen whether this is just a beautiful moment in World Peace’s life or a change that will return him to his former status. Redemption only exists if it is permanent. One or two games here or there will not do.

The next 29 games will decide whether World Peace is a Laker next year. If his game goes back to deteriorating like food rotting in the refrigerator, neither Laker fans nor management will be eager to weather another season of an "out of shape" aging World Peace.

When someone once said, "only time will tell," they must have had Metta World Peace in mind.

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