Metta World Peace Calls Oklahoma City the Team to Beat in the Western Conference

Metta World Peace entered the abbreviated NBA season with a new name and a bit of a new role with the Los Angeles Lakers. As he describes it, his role is to come off the bench and spell the starters long enough for them to get back in and finish off the game. That said, World Peace is still averaging 12 points per game for a Lakers team that has rebounded from an 0-2 start with back-to-back victories over the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks. Los Angeles should certainly contend again, but World Peace calls the Oklahoma City Thunder the team to beat in the West and lauds general manager Sam Presti for putting that team together. Metta World Peace joined 590 The Fan in Toronto with Joey Vendetta to discuss cramming the season into a short amount of time, where the Lakers stand personnel wise after the Chris Paul trade fell through, his role on the Lakers this season, why he changed his name, what he had seen around the world that had touched him, young players on the Lakers roster, and who he considers to be the team to beat out West.

What do you think it’s going to be like cramming so many games into such a short time?

“I think it can be OK. Everybody pretty much has the same team. I think the young players have never been through a tough season, I think it’s going to affect them mentally. And then for the older players, it could affect the older players physically, so I think everybody’s on an equal playing field, I guess.”

Where do you think the Lakers stand at this point after the Chris Paul trade not going down?

“I think we’ve just got to work hard. It’s going to be a lot of hard work and nothing’s going to be given to us. For the most part, it’s like starting from square one.”

What’s your role going to be this year? Is there a bit of an adjustment?

“My role this year, I’m coming off the bench. My role is just to come in and give a good effort and pretty much just bide some time for the starters to get back in there and finish off the game.”

What was behind the name change from Ron Artest to Metta World Peace?

“A lot of people ask me that. … It’s a question that I really don’t need to answer. If you look at what’s happening in the world, it’s pretty much self-explanatory. I think it’s something that was cool. I am a different type of person. I like to do things different and I always like to have fun. I like to entertain. At the same time, anytime I get a chance to get a good message across, I do that. I think it’s good for kids to see that all the stuff they see on the news that’s going on internationally, that people do want to change.”

What has touched you the most in your travels around the world and seeing these types of things?

“I went to Africa one time and I had never been there. When I finally saw the slums and things like that, I was like, ‘Wow, I never knew people lived like this.’ I’ve also been to Honduras. Honduras was also almost a borderline third-world country. … As humans, I think we’re all on the same team, for the most part. Anytime you get the chance to make an impact, giving back and make an impact, I try to take advantage of those moments.”

How do you incorporate some of the Lakers’ younger players into a veteran lineup?

“I think that there’s going to be a lot of young guys stepping up. Devin Ebanks, he’s really playing well. I think potentially he could step up. You have Andrew Goudelock. He’s a rookie point guard and he’s doing really, really well. I’m looking forward to seeing Steve Blake play well also.”

Who’s the team to beat in your division?

“I think probably Oklahoma’s going to be pretty tough. … I think they’re young and they’ve been there before. They have some good, smart players. I think Oklahoma City did a great job of putting together young, good, smart players. They’ve got to have one of the best general managers around.”

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