Metta World Peace - the mentor?
World Peace, who just over a month ago was suspended one game after landing a subtle uppercut to the jaw of Detroit's Brandon Knight, has taken on the role of molding Dwight Howard into a team leader.
Coming from a guy who has a record 11 league-mandated suspensions since 2003, and is just one flagrant foul away from another, this should be interesting.
Dwight is learning how to be a leader, World Peace told ESPN on Thursday. Hes not yet a vocal leader because he hasnt been in that situation enough to lead by example, so I have to really step up and lead more vocally and by example and I try to teach Dwight a little bit about what it takes to lead. I dont have all the accolades that these guys have, mainly because of my dysfunction and my Tourette's syndrome. Its not because of my play, because Ive been suspended.
World Peace, who was honored by UCLA in January for his contributions to mental health, insisted last week that despite his reputation and all the suspensions, he's not the dirty player everyone thinks he is.
"When I started watching NBA basketball, around, like, 1995, I was a fan of the Knicks and Miami and those types of playoff series," he said, "and I wanted to play in those types of games. It was rough, but it wasnt dirty. Players played hard, but nobody was trying to hurt anybody."
So when it comes to Howard, who despite much criticism is still viewed as the future of the franchise by Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, World Peace says he's just one of many showing Howard the way.
Some guys look at my stats and they dont see extra defensive player of the years and extra All-Stars because Ive been in trouble my whole career," he said. "So sometimes I lead by example and make big shots and gain these guys respect. Everybody leads in different ways. We have a lot of different leaders.
Among those who has left a lasting impression on how to back - and not bash - teammates is former Laker Derek Fisher, who signed with Oklahoma City last month.
You never know what somebody is going through in their life, World Peace said. You never know what somebody is going through physically or mentally. You never know if somebody is not ready for this pressure. You never know what anybody is going through. You can only be there for support. You just got to be there by their side, and I learned that from playing with Derek Fisher. You have to be there for your teammate because all you have is each other. Youre not going to win with just one person.
World Peace later added that Lakers, who currently sit a game and a half out of a playoff spot, must avoid waiting for Kobe Bryant to lift them into the playoffs.
Kobe is playing at a high level right now, he said. I think guys have to stop watching him at times and just play at the highest level they can play at. We cant do all the great things Kobe can do, but you can be as great as you can be. So that means Earl Clark has to go coast-to-coast sometimes and Steve Nash has to do his thing. Obviously its not going to be Kobe Bryant-ish, but be as great as you can be, and as long as we stop watching Kobe and start doing whats best for the team I think thats going to turn into great team play.