Lakers all about World Peace

Lakers forward Metta World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, during a preseason game against the Clippers...

Lakers forward Metta World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, during a preseason game against the Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., Dec. 19, 2011. (Reuters)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:20 PM ET

TORONTO - The Los Angeles Lakers are a different bunch.

They aren’t your typical NBA team. Young centre Andrew Bynum, an avid reader, spent his pre-game icing his feet, engrossed in The Hunger Games. Kobe Bryant is, well, Kobe Bryant, and there aren’t too many — if any — like him.

The team also has players’ union president Derek Fisher, a buddy of Bill Clinton, Luke Walton, son of the always entertaining Bill Walton, and others.

But the most intriguing of the group is Metta World Peace.

The former Ron Artest held court prior to Sunday’s victory over the Raptors as only he can.

World Peace — and yes, it still feels quite strange typing that — talked about his role in L.A., how he has sacrificed his offence in order to fit in but still deserves to be on the court due to his still strong defence, the decline of New York basketball, and how Bryant is the man, but Fisher remains an underrated cog.

What’s great about World Peace is he is honest and he is engaging. That isn’t always the case with other athletes who have achieved what he has. And even many who haven’t.

He basically scoffed at the notion that playing through this lockout-shortened sprint of a season is a hardship for an “old” guy like him.

“It’s fine, it’s just basketball,” he says. “All you have to do is wake up and play basketball. There’s nothing too grinding about that.”

And then he got into the good stuff.

“You can be a on a bad team and average 20 points and it still won’t add up to the little things. The good thing about me is I can score too.”

(People forget he was once an 18-to-20-point-a-night scorer, who was averaging 24.6 per game with Indiana before the infamous Malice at the Palace in Detroit.)

SLAM Magazine recently wrote a piece about New York — the “Basketball Mecca’s” fall from grace, noting that World Peace is the last active born-and-bred NYC all-star.

It’s something he has thought about as well. World Peace doesn’t like the corporate takeover of street basketball in New York, best symbolized by the NBA running the famed Rucker Park.

“The NBA messed up the Rucker,” he said, pointing out that ex-Raptor and street-ball legend Rafer Alston feels the same way.

“It’s like seeing a family member on drugs, somebody you love. That’s how it feels. It’s like the worst feeling ever, you can’t believe they did that.

“Now it’s like nothing. It’s bad. They’re doing that to all the tournaments in New York city though. They shut down a lot,” said World Peace, Queensbridge, N.Y., accent not faded at all.

“Like taking the soul right out of the game. When I go home now, I don’t even know where to go.”

The Knicks come to Toronto on Tuesday without a New York-developed star (though Carmelo Anthony at least was born there before moving to Baltimore). World Peace said the city makes it tough on budding talents, including ex-Knick Stephon Marbury.

“The thing about New York players, it’s the biggest media capital in the world so when you’re in New York, you get a name early. It goes to your head. It ruins guys. Only a few (make it),” he said.

“There were a lot of players better than me. Once you get that name, they think they’re king of New York, they forget you have to go to school. They forget you have to practice your jump shot, your free throws. They forget about all the little things.”

The 32-year old said he, good friend Lamar Odom, and Elton Brand were rarities. They continued to work, maybe because they weren’t quite as hyped as players such as Marbury and his cousin, Sebastian Telfair, at such a ridiculously early age.

Amazingly perhaps, considering his track record, World Peace has been able to cope with it all and continues, despite some early struggles, to make an impact on the still-dangerous Lakers.

On Sunday, he scored a crucial layup and provided lockdown defence on DeMar DeRozan, who shot 2-for-13.

“I’m not trying to prove anything, not trying to earn a contract. Not trying to prove I’m (not) over the hill. It’s all about the team winning,” World Peace said.

Just Ron being Ron.

Even if that no longer is his name.


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