With the return of “Metta World Peace,” AKA Ron Artest, the Los Angeles Lakers look to secure a defensive-minded forward on a team that is vying for a playoff position this year.
In his last stint with the team, which spanned over a four year period, Artest etched his name in the history books for both good and bad reasons. For one, World Peace will definitely be remembered for his on-court antics. Reflecting on the past, World Peace helped secure Los Angeles’ 2010 NBA Championship by knocking down a clutch three pointer in the closing seconds of game seven. However, he also carries notoriety throughout the league due to a controversial play in which he elbowed then Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard James Harden in the face. This is a risky move for an organization who is looking only to improve.
That is exactly what general manager Mitch Kupchak believes World Peace can deliver to the organization: improvement. “Personally, I think [there’s] a lot of things he brings to the table…” Kupchak said. For the past month, World Peace has reportedly been training at the Lakers’ facility, while also mentoring young players such as Julius Randle—a sophomore forward who was injured in his rookie debut last season.
The main motivation Kupchak seemingly has in bringing World Peace to the team is his leadership. The 35 year old veteran clearly has an influence in the locker room, and with such a young squad, he’s reportedly held his own in the practices. However, since his departure from the New York Knicks in 2014, World Peace hasn’t played in an NBA game but rather logged playing time in the Chinese and Italian basketball leagues.
Could World Peace be the missing link the Lakers’ need? He has some steep competition in order to make the team, having received a non-guaranteed, one-year deal in which he will battle for one of three open roster spots against young talent that will pose new challenges all on their own. If he does make the team, he just may get the bench to provide extra defensive mentality in what seems to be shaping up as a turnaround season for the Lakers.