Metta World Health

You guess: which Lakers player paid the closest collective attention to his diet and work out habits last season?

Kobe Bryant … right?

Maybe not.

Now don’t get me wrong – Bryant absolutely keeps himself in fantastic shape and has changed his dietary habits in the last several years in particular after his absurd metabolism carried him through a pregame routine of burgers and fries earlier in his career. He’s just not our answer in this case.

How about Steve Nash? He’s extremely well known around the league for keeping a strict diet and putting himself in the best possible shape to maintain his elite level of play after all these NBA seasons.

But it’s not the Canadian MVP, who has yet to sit down with the team’s training staff.

The answer is: Metta World Peace. Don’t look so surprised.

According to Lakers strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco, MWP is absolutely the man.

“Metta was extremely helpful for me last year because he does a great job with his nutrition and recovery habits,” DiFrancesco detailed. “He takes that stuff very seriously, and younger guys in our locker room started to see that.

“He takes it to a whole different level; he’s really in tune with a lot of high level nutrition approaches. He doesn’t just want to know what a good peanut butter is made of, but where it was made, what’s in it and how he can get a better one. He wants to really put the nutrition program together like an actual nutritionist might.”

In fact, World Peace makes a point of traveling with the right types of food that he knows fuel his body most efficiently during the season when the team is out of town. And he’s just as serious about his work outs.

“He cares about the ‘why,’ DiFrancesco continued. “Metta wants to know why we’re doing each exercise. On multiple occasions, he and I would stay after games lifting into the late hours of the night, and he’s always willing to go the extra mile. He’s very, very easy to work with.”

World Peace came into camp last season noticeably out of shape – just ask coach Mike Brown, or MWP himself – but for a reason. He’d carried some injuries out of the 2010-11 campaign, and with the lockout starting in July, was unable to work with the team’s training staff to address those problems.

Issues with his back and Achilles made it difficult for World Peace to work out as he normally does through the summer and fall, and when the season suddenly started – as a surprise to many players – in December, he wasn’t close to being ready.

“It was a product of the lockout,” said DiFrancesco. “But once he flipped the switch and got healthy, he put it all together with lifting, working out, nutrition and everything. It wasn’t rocket science, he just ate clean, worked out hard and consistently and recovered and slept the right way.”

After shooting 34 percent prior the to All-Star break, World Peace shot 43 percent afterwards, and discovered the kind of lock down 1-on-1 perimeter defending that has been the hallmark of his career.

If you’ve seen him around the team’s training facility this summer (OK, there’s no way most of you could have), you’ve noticed that he’s in fantastic shape.

“Compared to last year at this time, it’s not even close,” concluded the strength coach. “Metta told me he’s feeling on the court like he felt when he was playing for the Pacers, when he was at the top of his game athletically. It’s because he’s put his time in.

“He decided he needed to stay focused on this track and not take much if any time off. You saw it last year from a production standpoint on the court around the All Star break last year, and he’s at that level now coming in. The last thing he wanted was to come in anywhere near where he was lats year, and he’s far, far from that.”