*Update – ESPN Land O Lakers report that the Judge has delayed the name change due to Traffic Warrants. DOH!*
So today is the day it becomes official. The Artest formerly known as Ron-Ron is no more. Meet the new guy suiting up for the purple and gold, #70, Metta World Peace. But as we welcome this addition to the Lakers family what I’m wondering is even with a new name, a new persona and a few arbitrary headlines garnered, will the Lakers really be getting anything different or just a redressed package of the same inconsistent player?
Now, speculation abounded when Mr. Peace announced his decision some months ago that he was going to legally change his name. Was it a publicity stunt, many wondered? Was he off his medication? Maybe it was just a desperate plea for attention by an off kilter personality. No matter what the reasoning behind the move, however, even if he meant well with the name change as a genuine gesture of goodwill and rebirth, he still needs to prove that he’s not washed up as a basketball player if he wishes to log consistent minutes and remain a vital contributor to a championship contending team.
Ultimately the only thing the Lakers and their fans care about is how Metta performs on the court. If he comes out this year and has a repeat of last season, when he endured career lows in points, rebounds and PER while simultaneously shooting a cringe worthy 39% from the field, it won’t matter if his name is Achilles of Troy. Metta World Peace might be a new name but the player is an aging veteran who has tested the patience of fans with his inconsistencies as much as he as shined in the clutch (please Metta, don’t think we’ve forgotten your clutch heroics in the 2010 playoffs).
And so the question remains, does this ‘new’ player have anything left in the tank? The best I can honestly say is I hope so. I think there’s a good chance that World Peace can still be a huge asset as a defender in a a Mike Brown scheme that is specifically focused on defense. It’s also still possible he can find a more consistent stroke from beyond the arc. There were stretches last season when he appeared to finally be finding his offensive rhythm, specifically during a run of games in January and February after Matt Barnes went down with an injury. But counting on those turnarounds would be a colossal leap of faith.
We are, after all, talking about a player who will be 32 in November. Someone who has only played in all 82 regular season games just once (last season, coincidentally enough) and was never considered an elite athlete to begin with in terms of speed and quickness. So as much as I want to believe that we might see a career resurrection or renaissance, I’m still fearful that this new era of Peace might be an unmitigated disaster.
Either way the distraction of Metta World Peace is a nice diversion for today. I just hope he remembers to bring his game with him when the action gets going again on the hardwood (knock on wood).