LOS ANGELES – Three months after he changed his name and went sashaying across a ballroom floor on national television, Metta World Peace has stepped back into a familiar role.
Dancing with strange thoughts.
Take his view on all the trade rumors involving the Lakers: “I’ve been more focused on the Herman Cain presidential campaign this year,” he said. “I want some Godfather’s Pizza.”
Then there’s his opinion on teammate Lamar Odom being traded to the Dallas Mavericks: “Honestly, I don’t even know what happened. I just woke up and I had some beans this morning and I read something, but I don’t believe everything I read.”
And finally, there’s his response to a reporter who inquired about some teammates calling him Ron and others Metta: “Well, I’m just happy that Jesus Christ, um, did not let me lose my teeth when I was 20 years old.”
For better or worse, the Lakers are preparing for another season of World Peace being the player formerly known as Ron Artest. The veteran small forward has a new role to go with his new name, coming off the bench after starting 721 of his 763 NBA games.
Apparently, World Peace is willing to not only say but also do anything.
“We’re just trying to win a championship,” he said, “so that’s all that matters.”
World Peace said he expected his production to increase despite taking on what some might consider a diminished role. Playing with the second-teamers, he reasoned, will allow him to post up his 6-foot-6 frame more and become a bigger scoring threat.
“There’s a chance I could get back to normal here,” he said.
The trends suggest otherwise. World Peace’s scoring has dropped precipitously in each of the last three seasons, from 17.1 points a game in the 2008-09 season with Houston to 11.0 points in his first season with the Lakers to 8.5 points last season.
Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person said those who don’t give World Peace a chance because of his tendency to ramble are missing out.
“Sometimes when we don’t understand somebody, it creates a sense of fear in people,” Person said. “And I think Metta sometimes comes across like that because people don’t understand him.”