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Metta World Peace looks more engaged in the past month

April 12, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • Lakers forward Metta World Peace warms up before a game against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 16.
Lakers forward Metta World Peace warms up before a game against the Dallas… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

The images were a sight to see.

He nailed a three-pointer while standing flat-footed. He sank fall-away jumpers. He even threw down a dunk, perhaps as a reminder that he's not simply an aging veteran.

It's amazing to see Kobe Bryant continue his dominance, but we're not talking about him this time. While Bryant was sidelined for the third consecutive game because of a sore left shin, Metta World Peace scored a season-high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the Lakers' 98-84 victory Wednesday over the San Antonio Spurs. The same World Peace who arrived at training camp out of shape,  takes off-balance shots and normally looks like a bull in a china shop morphed into the Lakers' biggest offensive threat.

This wasn't a fluke. Save for a ridiculous inbounds pass that nearly cost the Lakers in a two-point win Monday over New Orleans, World Peace has become more than just a punch line. He has provided a stabilizing presence by huddling teammates and encouraging them. World Peace has averaged 14.3 points on 54.2% shooting through seven games. And he remains a defensive enforcer. 

The explanation World Peace provided to reporters, including The Times' Mike Bresnahan and ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, sounds simple. Nerve damage in his lower back last season made it difficult for him to move. He couldn't completely fix it until this season, since the NBA lockout forbade him to work with the Lakers' training staff. That caused him to arrive at training camp out of shape. World Peace said he felt so limited that he considered retiring.

This might seem puzzling for Lakers fans, because they've never seen World Peace like this for the past three seasons. He usually looked lost in the offense. A good shooting night appeared to happen by luck. His typically strong defense proved a mixed bag in offsetting his offensive weaknesses.

World Peace's sudden emergence doesn't look impressive just because he's scoring more. It's the way he's doing it. He's taking on-balance three-point shots and jumpers. He has shown speed when he attacks the basket. He seems focused.

Before, it was easy to brush off such efforts as an anomaly. But he's done this for the past seven games. If indeed injuries and conditioning were the only things holding him back, the Lakers can expect the trend to continue.  

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