Metta World Peace overcame a slow start to the 2011-12 season – plagued by offseason injury during the lockout – by rallying after the All-Star break, his numbers jumping to 10.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.08 steals on 43 percent field goals and 33.1 percent on threes compared to 4.9 points, 5.9 boards, 4.0 assists and 1.72 steals on 33.5 percent field goals and 23.9 percent three pointers.
In the playoffs, MWP went for 11.7 points plus 3.5 boards, 2.3 assists and 2.17 steals on 36.7 percent field goals.
Below is a summary of his exit interview:
- On still believing the Lakers should be playing: “Definitely underachieved. We’re the best team in the NBA, lost in five, we should be up 3-2 playing tomorrow. But the better team (OKC) that took advantage of the moment, of their time, seized it and they grabbed it and held onto it. We gotta find a way to hold onto our moments.”
- On next season, while describing his slow start: “I gotta come back just how I left off. I was playing at a high level and need to be able to stay there. The lockout hurt me a lot, because last season going into the playoffs I had a nerve issue in my back … once the lockout happened I wasn’t able to address it so all I could do was rest. It took me 2-3 months to get in shape. I was hitting the front of the rim a lot at the beginning of the season, but as I got in shape, shots started to go right. I started to get a lot of dunks … that was only because I was in shape.”
- Metta says that several of the Lakers need to trust themselves more and not depend on Kobe so much. “Mitch brought you here for a reason,” as he put it. He said it can be difficult to play with Kobe while thinking about his greatness and legacy, that teammates – not himself – had a problem being assertive knowing that Kobe was there. He has a good point, but it can be a chicken and egg argument. Is that lack of aggression at times because Kobe is extra aggressive? For World Peace, at least, that stopped being an issue; he didn’t just stand and watch Kobe try to win games like he may have in his first season. Think Game 7 of the Finals vs. Boston for a good example. He was never afraid to shoot or create a play, make or miss.
- World Peace on Mike Brown: “It was a new regime … a drastic change. It took a bit getting used to.” But World Peace said it wasn’t the coaching staff’s fault that guys missed shots, turned the ball over and the like in – for example – Game 2 and Game 4, when they led big late. “Mike didn’t come in out of shape” … then he reconsidered, and said, laughingly, “wait he did come in out of shape … he’s a fat#&@.”
- Metta kept returning to the theme that the Lakers had plenty of talent, but couldn’t find a way to channel it properly when it counted. He likes to discuss the inside dominance that Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum possess, discussing – for example – how they controlled the tempo of Game 2 against the Thunder by playing at that pace, but lamented that they couldn’t do it more consistently. Throughout the season, MWP would often say the Lakers couldn’t be beaten if they played at the pace of Bynum and Gasol, but that became easier said than done against teams like Denver and Oklahoma City.
- On his loyalty to the Lakers: “The Lakers did a lot for me. I like it here. The Lakers did nothing but great things for me; I got a championship here, something I always wanted. I don’t really talk about myself, just what can make the team better, whatever is in the best interest of the Lakers.”
- World Peace wasn’t sure if he’d be able to find his dominance again, but credited Dr. Judy Seto, the team’s physical therapist, for figuring out what was wrong with him and getting him back to what he was physically. That excited him greatly, and has him eager for next season. He also cited the work of the team’s strength coach, Tim DiFrancesco.