Lakers forward Metta World Peace tries to slip past Rockets guard Courtney… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
The moment Andrew Bynum taunted the Rockets bench, Metta World Peace harkened back to his days growing up in Queensbridge, N.Y.: That's how everyone played the game.
"That's street ball," he said. "You talk trash. That's the essence of basketball right there. You score and talk trash off the bench. That's fun."
Yes, World Peace had plenty of fun talking about Bynum's ejection in the Lakers' 112-107 loss Friday to the Houston Rockets, and managed to springboard it into a few punchlines.
He described as the NBA as a "bunch of street ball players," while naming out so-called "rich people," including Golden State Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who both had fathers playing in the NBA. "I'm assuming Blake Griffin is from the suburbs somewhere," World Peace added.
Even though he suggested last year I should declare for the NBA draft, World Peace put it aptly about why I need to be patient with Bynum learning how to temper his anger. "You got to go through it," World Peace said. "The only reason you don't go through it is because you [stink] at basketball. You never had a chance to play in the NBA."
And World Peace cast Bynum's ejection as just another example of the man bringing someone down. "You don't get a second chance with Corporate America when you have one tech."
Underneath World Peace's goofiness, however, stood a larger theme about how Bynum's teammates view him. They all emphasized Bynum must figure out a way to avoid getting tossed, while still playing with the same chippiness that's contributed to posting a career-high 18.3 points per game on 58.3% shooting.
But there's no other player than World Peace who can fully relate. After all, World Peace is eight years removed from one of the darkest moments in NBA history. In 2004 as an Indiana Pacer, Artest went into the Pistons crowd after beer was thrown at him and punched a fan. The incident sparked an 86-game suspension, the longest penalty for a physical altercation in NBA history, and he received a year's probation after pleading no contest to assault charges.
"When I got to the NBA, that's the only way I knew how to survive was to play and do whatever I had to do and fight," World Peace said. "That's the first thing I came to my mind was fight. Anything goes wrong on the court, I had to learn not to play that way. It took a while. It was a long adjustment and now I can play basketball aggressively and not carry it off the court. I'll see what exactly he's going through. He's 24? I was worse at 24."
World Peace may have a point that I'm horrible at basketball. But in Bynum's case, I don't buy the whole immaturity storyline. Bynum's teammates may feel compelled to offer their support and show they can relate. But his recent behavior -- shooting ill-advised three-pointers, disrespecting Mike Brown and listening to loud music before games -- points more to wanting to remain defiant than suddenly wondering how he can keep his emotions in check.
"Eventually he'll say, Enough is enough. I don't feel like getting ejected anymore and we'll be playing basketball,'" World Peace said. "He will adjust. I had to adjust. I used to get all the calls called against me. I had to adjust my defense and adjust my life and everything."
Clearly, Bynum hasn't gotten that out of his system, though. He didn't show much remorse for clotheslining Minnesota's Michael Beasley last year, and even earned praise from Jackson and Bryant for delivering a hard foul. His clothesline on J.J. Barea in the 2011 NBA playoffs received universal scorn from Bryant, Jackson, Derek Fisher, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and James Worthy. And who knows how the 1972 Lakers championship team felt when they witnessed Bynum's latest ejection.
But as World Peace made clear, no amount of advice will change Bynum's behavior. He has to do that on his own.
"I talk to him sometimes, but sometimes he has to go through it himself," World Peace said. "He's a man, makes $12 million a year and he's a man. He will figure it out. Obviously he worked on his game and he wants to win. He's emotional right now and I love it."
Photos: Lakers vs. Rockets
Lakers lose to Rockets after Bynum is ejected
Blake Griffin give flagrant foul 1 for shoving Pau Gasol