Metta World Peace stood in front of his locker and answered every question. He and his Lakers squad had just been pummeled 119-90 by Oklahoma City less than an hour before, and he didn’t play particularly well.
Despite that, World Peace listened to everything media members threw at him. Everything from Elbow Gate to what he thinks of Oklahoma City was put to him. His responses may been all over the place, but he answered them all and more.
“Oklahoma City has some of the best fans in the NBA,” World Peace said. “They took on a team that needed shelter from New Orleans that was struggling at the time. And they welcomed the Hornets. They deserved their own franchise and they got the team from Seattle. They were able to support their team and pay the players. So obviously, they love basketball.”
In only his second game back after serving a seven-game suspension for his elbow to James Harden’s head, World Peace was booed by 18,000 fans every time he touched the ball.
But the 12-year veteran wasn’t bothered by the reaction. It was something he expected and seemingly fed off of it early on.
“That’s their fans,” World Peace said. “They are not Laker fans. They have great fans. Good looking women. What am I going to say. They had great looking women in the stands booing. I was like, ‘Wow! You are all beautiful.’”
When World Peace was known as Ron Artest, he went through much tougher times in his career. As a member of the Pacers, he caused an all-out brawl in Detroit that spilled over into the fans. He was suspended the rest of the season.
Because of that and several other incidents, World Peace has allowed himself to be labeled dirty, crazy and unpredictable by NBA fans and media members. It also has taken away from just how good of a player he is.
“Sometimes, I make defense look easy,” World Peace said. “I’m one of the only people that can do that. But it’s never easy. That’s the good thing about the playoffs. It’s fun.”
The latest incident with Harden took on a life of its own and he was once again vilified around the country. With Los Angeles coming off a rough seven-game series against Denver and then playing one of the favorites to win an NBA title, most of the talk revolved around World Peace not shaking hands with Harden during the game.
“Right now, it’s about basketball,” World Peace said. “I think after the season if fans want to talk to me, you know, tweet me or hit me up online or go to my podcast, I think that after the season we can talk about that. But right now it’s more about basketball for me.”
It’s basketball that World Peace and the Lakers will have to focus on for the rest of the series. The Thunder manhandled and ran the Lakers off the court in game one. L.A. looked like it had no answers defensively for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and they forced a total of only four turnovers against a team that was among the league leaders during the regular season.
“With the turnovers we’ve had throughout the season, it’s good to see that we only had four turnovers,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “That’s huge. We’ve had four in the first six minutes of games sometimes. We did a great job of taking care of the basketball.”
With Kobe Bryant leading the way, the Thunder know the Lakers will come back tonight with a better effort. While World Peace wasn’t happy with the way his team played, he wasn’t dejected.
“Just one game,” World Peace said. “It was an important game. Not discouraged. Not at all. We’ve been through, I mean just being here, I’ve been through more tough games. We should be OK. You are going to see the same person. I am going to weigh the same. I might get a hair cut. It could possibly grow back in a day or two.”