The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t able to put up much of a fight against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Round 2 of the NBA playoffs, and closing games was definitely a problem. Naturally, some are wondering if this playoff run would have ended differently had the small forward formerly known as Ron Artest not been suspended for the first six games of Round 1. And with the season now over, Metta World Peace surely has some interesting things to say about how everything ended. Metta World Peace joined Mason & Ireland on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles to discuss the Lakers’ inability to close against the Thunder and how the series might have gone had they been able to finish stronger. He also opined that the team could have taken care of Denver with more ease had he not been suspended in Round 1 and repeated how he wished he’d had a chance to help out more in crucial situations.
On the shape he was in this season:
“If you think about it, I’ve been playing basketball for a long time and I’ve been guarding the best player ever since I’ve been in the NBA. And I’ve probably got more wear and tear on my body than anybody. But with wear and tear on your body, what you discover is ways that you can take care of your body, when you gotta put in the effort to find out. And the training staff really helped me out a lot. So I’d say it’s 50/50 — me, and the other 50 percent was (the training staff). They got me back in shape. Once I got back in shape, I started to do things that I couldn’t do before like catch the ball in the lane and finish a layup. And that was real difficult for me over the last couple of years. I didn’t know what was going on, but I had this nerve problem in my lower back that I didn’t really know about. It was a small problem but it really affected my game. But as of right now, I feel like I can dominate again.”
On how many games it would have taken Los Angeles to beat the Nuggets in Round 1 had he been available for the entire series:
“I gotta say anywhere from four to six. … It should have took us four-to-six games to beat them and some of that probably played a factor in the first game that we lost in OKC due to a little bit of probably fatigue. … With all that said, we still shoulda been up 3-1.”
On the team’s inability to close games against Oklahoma City:
“As a team we were unable to close. That’s 100 percent right. We did, um, at the end of the game, it was unfortunate that we didn’t close them as a team. Now, we do have capable players of closing. I wish I coulda had the ball more at end of the game to assist Kobe (Bryant’s) drive … because I know he wanted to close the game, that’s what he like to do. And myself, sometimes at the end of the game or a crucial play, Kobe will ask for the ball sometimes (and) I’ll shoot it. I don’t really (have) that type of attitude at that time in the game. And so I wish I could have assisted, but I’m a team player first, and that’s kind of one of my weak points is that I’m a team player. And I won’t just go and do things that’s not in the concept of the team. So I kinda wish I would’ve had the ball a couple times at the end of those games. … I think me and Kobe are just as good as closers as anybody in the league, but it was just unfortunate that I wasn’t able to be in that position to help.”