Metta World Peace dribbles as he is guarded by Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma… (Harry How / Getty Images )
Metta World Peace sat by his locker, relishing the moment.
"This is a beautiful situation to be in," he said to a small group of reporters. "I want to sit here with you guys in June, just like this."
The Lakers, who entered Sunday's game against Oklahoma City in 10th place in the Western Conference, had just beat the Thunder, 105-96. World Peace played a pivotal role in the win, with 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Not that he wanted much credit.
"It's a team game; it's real simple," he said, before turning on the journalists around him.
"You guys are selfish," World Peace said. "You media guys are one-on-one because you're going against each other. You guys are selfish, like you're trying to go against him, trying to get the best story. You're elbowing him, trying to tie him up. You're hiring hit men and stuff and trying to take out other media people. You all are selfish. You're not on the same team. We're a team."
World Peace was partially right.
The Lakers played beautiful team basketball against the Thunder, extending from Kobe Bryant's 14 assists on offense to World Peace's and Earl Clark's defense on Kevin Durant.
Whenever Durant, a four-time All-Star, touched the ball, World Peace's lightning fast hands were not far away swiping at the rubber and forcing Durant to hurry his shot. Durant, who is averaging 52% from the field this season, was 10-for-26 from the field against the Lakers on Sunday evening, making only 38% of his shots.
"I don't know if I set the tone defensively -- I think we did," World Peace said, before yet against deflecting the spotlight, this time by pointing to Dwight Howard's defensive activity.
"He's a presence," World Peace said of Howard. "He's changing how many shots? They don't have that stat because the stat people are lazy."
Whether or not World Peace wants to expound upon it, his recent play, especially his defensive intensity, has had quite an impact on the flailing Lakers, helping them string together a very modest, but crucially important, two-game win streak.
Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni called World Peace's defense "terrific."
"I mean it's big, it's huge, especially on the fours," D'Antoni said, referring to the power forward position. "It gives us a different look."
World Peace played nearly 43 minutes, logging more time on the court than any of his teammates.
As he cooled down after the game, his analysis and commentary ranged from quirky to intelligent.
He pretended that he was unaware of his busted lip, making reporters describe the cut to him. He lamented that Howard took only seven shots, saying that he'd like to see the center shoot 12 to 15 shots a game. And he insisted that the Lakers shouldn't be worried about what's around the corner.
"We ain't worried about no damn train," World Peace said to a television reporter. "And I love you so I'm sorry for saying 'damn.'"
The Lakers, who improved to 19-25, are four games behind the eighth place Houston Rockets. With the win over the Thunder, one of the top teams in the NBA, the Lakers made a small statement.
"It was a collective effort," World Peace said. "Everybody brought what they do best to the table."
World Peace sure did. And he also brought it to the locker room.