HANG TIME, Texas — Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni had a nice lunch, which concluded with a return to the starting lineup for the Spaniard as dessert.
So after swallowing three straight sugarplum wins over Washington, Philly and Charlotte, everyone is fat and jolly again in Laker Land as they wait for Steve Nash to fall back down their chimney on Christmas.
Except, uh, has anyone checked in with naughty-or-nice Metta World Peace?
Turns out our friend Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times did:
But what does World Peace want? It’s always entertaining to find out.
He initially said the right things about the demotion, claiming he would accept it for the betterment of the team but not wanting to go too in-depth about it, quickly touting his new music single (“Represented,” for those who care) and reminding reporters it was available now on iTunes.
On Friday, however, World Peace appeared less open to the concept when asked if he was still fine with coming off the bench.
“I’m not answering that at all. Absolutely not. I have no comment,” said World Peace, the Lakers’ second-best player in a surprising number of games this season.
Of course, as always with World Peace, his opinion could change as quickly as it takes to walk across the room and come back to ask the exact same question. But it is a situation worth monitoring.
It’s understandable that D’Antoni’s top priority is to get a healthy Gasol’s engine back running on all cylinders. His production has dropped off significantly this season with him averaging 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds, and shooting only 41.3 percent as he hobbled on bad knees and a seeming lack of faith from the coach.
Since Nash has previously indicated that playing in a lineup that included Gasol was a big factor in his choosing to join up with the Lakers, maximizing the time the pair spends on the floor together just makes sense.
So too would it seem that World Peace is the more obvious choice to come off the bench, where his energy and enthusiasm can provide a lift and he’d have more freedom to be a bigger part of the offense away from Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Gasol.
In his first game in the reserve role, World Peace played starter’s minutes (36), scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and made four steals.
Perhaps more significant will be how D’Antoni uses his lineup down the stretch in games. According to Bresnahan, D’Antonio told Gasol he would no longer be removed from games in critical situations. Yet he was benched with the score tied for the final 2:35 of the win over Charlotte, while World Peace played to the end.
Let’s see how harmoniously that plays out if the situations are reversed before declaring joy to the Lakers world.