Lakers forward Metta World Peace will likely come into better shape this… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
This is the sixth post in a series focusing on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2012-13 season.
1. Metta World Peace must be in better condition to open training camp. He arrived at training camp last season weighing 268 pounds, joking that David Stern's threats of a "nuclear winter" during the NBA lockout prompted him to drink an wide array of martinis. In reality, World Peace cited a nerve issue in his lower back that the Lakers' trainers couldn't address since the team and players couldn't interact during the lockout. Early indications suggest this will not be an issue this camp. During an appearance Wednesday at the Voice Awards, World Peace's face looked incredibly thin and he said afterward he currently weighs about 255 pounds. I also attended one of his workouts in mid-July at UCLA where World Peace appeared in shape after performing various conditioning drills.
It's hard to tell, though, what that means since nearly every NBA player loses weight, gains muscle and becomes quicker during the offseason. Considering World Peace's age (32) and declining athleticism, it's imperative that he addresses his weight and agility to ensure he can still keep up on the court.
2. World Peace needs to remain dependable on defense. That's always his calling card. But it's going to be even more important this year. It's possible World Peace's offensive role could become next to nothing with all the talent they have around him, including Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. World Peace always takes pride in defense, but his engagement level sometimes hinges on how much he's involved offensively.
His mind-set will have to change. World Peace will be needed to guard the opposing team's top players, such as Miami's LeBron James and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, regardless of how he does on offense. Because James and Durant are such prolific scorers, it's possible World Peace won't fully stop them. But as long as World Peace at least makes those stars work for their points and tires them out, the Lakers should be able to get by.
3. World Peace's offensive role will hinge on his outside shooting. MWP should change his name to Metta Wide Open. Nash's strong passing and the ability of Bryant, Howard and Gasol to draw double teams will leave World Peace virtually unguarded on the perimeter. Many in the Staples Center crowd gasp when that happens, considering World Peace shot 29.6% from three-point range last year.
Because of that inconsistency, World Peace is going to have to establish a fine line between taking open treys and making the extra pass. In some moments, World Peace will simply have to make those open shots when defenses collapse to protect the lane. In other instances, World Peace will need to see who else is open. For better or for worse (more likely the latter), this variable will hinge on World Peace's judgment.
4. World Peace must keep his cool. His viscious elbow to Oklahoma City guard James Harden prompted misleading conclusions that he's the same Ron Artest who particpated in the Palace Brawl eight years ago. He's a changed man. But it does lead to fair questions regarding whether World Peace can keep his composure, an issue he sometimes privately admits remains a problem.
Some might see this is as a delicate balance considering the Lakers love World Peace's on-court intensity and physical play. But it's pretty simple. Don't make plays that can seriously harm someone, such as swinging an elbow. That's a clear difference toward playing aggressive, physical basketball. Yet, it's an area World Peace will need to prove he can control.
5. Keep the goofiness to manageable levels. It's unrealistic to expect World Peace to suddenly become serious. When the season starts, World Peace likely will talk about wanting to appear in one of Steve Nash's parody videos or dress in a super hero constume with Dwight Howard's "Superman." That makes for great training camp banter. But once the season starts, World Peace needs to stop the sideshows and just focus. His work ethic always remains high. But the fewer distractions, the easier it will be for World Peace not to get sidetracked from the task at hand.