Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 12/17/12
EL SEGUNDO, CA Just a few days ago, Kobe Bryant told an Internet sports site that the Lakers needed Metta World Peace to step up and be a team leader in order to move them back in a winning direction. Bryant told Yahoo! Sports: "A lot of responsibility is going to fall on me and Pau Gasol, but we need Metta World Peace. Metta has a big presence on this team. I really encourage him to take that role head on and to be an enforcer with it. Metta, he's done it before. We've won before together." Kobe said Laker Hall of Famer Magic Johnson was in complete agreement, telling Bryant in a conversation that MWP should be a take-no-prisoners type of player, like Michael Cooper was with the Showtime Lakers of the 1980's. Sunday in Philadelphia he showed the ability to do just that. And ten suspensions since 2003 illustrate that World Peace isn't devoid of the aggressiveness needed to be and enforcerjust ask James Harden. But World Peace says he's changed and the difference in Ron Artest, Metta v.1 and his latest incarnation is a smarter, calmer person. And when the subject of a possible All Star Game selection was brought up, he did some quick introspection while talking to a reporter in the player's parking lot, admitting the numerous mistakes he's made throughout his career. "I've always felt I was an All Star over the years," he said, "I was just so dysfunctional that it was hard to be a consistent All Star when you were as dysfunctional as me. "I was an All Star in Indiana (in 2004) and what do I do the next year? I get suspended. I was going to be an All Star that year. I was averaging 25 points. What do I do the next year? I get suspended again and take a leave of absence and now my numbers are all messed up. "Then I go to Sacramento, and even though I was out of shape, we went to the playoffs that year. Then I went to Houston and had a great year. I played like an All Star, but I wasn't on the ballot. "Then I came here and I had to defer." Presumably to Kobe and Gasol. That one didn't bother him so much, he said, because of winning his first NBA title. But he felt the team became complacent after having won championships in 2009 and his first year of 2010, and they were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round in each of the last two post-seasons. "After (my) first ring, we (weren't) playing together (any) more," he stated while shaking his head. "We didn't have that collective willpower we needed against Dallas and against Oklahoma City. We didn't have any collective willpower. "That sums up my whole career." In many ways, it also tells the tale of a life lived on the edge. One of the suspensions he talked about came while with the Pacers due to participation the "Malice in the Palace" brawl with the Detroit Pistons on November 19, 2004. He punched a Piston fan and it cost him the rest of the season and nearly 5 million dollars in salary. Then there was the James Harden incident last season, and he was out for seven more games. He says that he's much more at peace with himself and has worked through his demons. "It's true and I can admit being very dysfunctional," said MWP. "But dysfunction is also function, and I got my dysfunction out of the way. Now it's all functional." And he's back to playing All-Star caliber basketball on both ends of the floor. MWP carried a big part of the load in the Lakers 111-98 win over the Sixers in Philadelphia on Sunday. He scored 19 points and grabbed a game and career-high 16 rebounds. He said it was just time for him to step up his overall game. "I'm all about giving an effort all the time," said the 13-year veteran forward, who's averaging 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. "I feel like I'm adapting well to what coach (Mike D'Antoni) wants me to do. "It's just about playing the game," World Peace said after Monday's practice. "The NBA is about actions. When you get two guys going against each other, there are a few actions you can take. You learn that there are ways to guard everything." He's also learned through his many controversial moments that there are ways to say things and get your point across without alienating a teammate. Especially one who's been just as volatile as World Peace has in the pastBryant. After the win in Phillythe second in a row for the Lakers--Metta told reporters that the team needed to spread the ball around more and not have it be Kobe dominating the offense every game. And to possibly push a few more buttons, he added that D'Antoni was responsible for letting Kobe have too much freedom. "I'm happy Coach went back to his offense," Metta stated. "He was hired for a reason. He was hired to bring an offense in. He got a little complacent, a little bit confident, and went away from this offense and turned it into the Kobe show." He elaborated in thoughtful terms after the workout. "He wasn't doing it, and I trust his offense," Metta said about D'Antoni. "I trust the Lakers organization and I trust Kobe. I trust everybody and we've got to trust each other and believe in each other, and in the last two games we've believed in each other. "When Kobe shows belief in somebody, you think you're better than what you actually are. When Kobe shows belief in us he takes our game to a whole other level." NOTESSteve Nash and Pau Gasol both returned to practice Monday, Nash saying he hopes to play by Christmas. Gasol could be in the lineup Tuesday night against Charlotte at Staples Center if his knees are sound after the gameday shoot-around. Nash has been out since October 31st with a fractured left fibula while Gasol has missed the last eight games with tendinitis in both knees.
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