Posts Tagged ‘ScottHoward-Cooper’

World Peace’s Memorable Run Ends

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HANG TIME WEST – There now. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

The Lakers survived Ron Artest-turned-Metta World Peace through four seasons, two names, two uniform numbers, one championship podium, one shooting slump (of about four seasons) and one continuous slide of his once-formidable defense. It’s all good, in other words.

In the final tally – and the best perspective as World Peace heads into free agency with the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding reporting that World Peace will be amnestied – he was among the least of the Lakers’ problems. Try getting odds on that when they came together in summer of 2009 in a risky choice as management broke up a title lineup and chose then-Artest over bringing back Trevor Ariza, but the eye-rubbing truth is that the biggest issue with the starting small forward by any name was his play, and that’s a victory given his past.

He was quirky, to be sure. But that’s pretty common around the league by now and more than acceptable around the locker room that has known open superstar combat while winning championships.

The Lakers were close to heartless in two consecutive playoffs and most of the regular season of a third, coach Phil Jackson left, Mike Brown was under constant public pressure and finally asked to leave, there was discussion about a Jackson return, Mike D’Antoni was a controversial replacement, E! News showed up to training camp after Lamar Odom married a Kardashian, Magic Johnson was not shy about tipping over gas cans and flicking matches with public comments, Dwight Howard came, Dwight Howard went, Chris Paul was nearly acquired, Pau Gasol was forever in trade talks, and, oh, yeah, Kobe Bryant was in there somewhere.

“Among the least of the problems” might be a soft sell.

Winning a title the first season, 2009-10, justified the front office swapping Ariza for Artest, with the bonus validation of Artest in a starring role. He grabbed Bryant’s errant jumper/assist out of the air for the layup that gave the Lakers a back-breaking Game 5 win over the Suns in the Western Conference finals, a series they wrapped up in Phoenix in Game 6. Then, in Game 7 of The Finals against the Celtics, with both teams grinding gears on offense, he hit a clutch 3-pointer and finished with 20 points, five rebounds and five steals to get the Lakers over the finish line. Reaching the podium with his mind racing and thoughts coming in ricocheting tangents meant anything was possible, and not all good, but it turned out to be delightfully quirky Artest.

He did great things, playing an important role to help drive the Lakers to another crown and off the court raising awareness of mental-health issues and specifically working to improve care for youths. He auctioned off his championship ring for the cause and considered other fundraisers for future titles that never came.

The breakup could be seen coming from a long distance. It was a possibility all along anyway, and the Lakers falling out of title contention when Howard jumped to the Rockets all but clinched the decision to amnesty World Peace and save approximately $30 million. News of the impending departure comes the same week it was announced the Lakers owe $29.26 million in luxury tax for last season, with a harsher penalty kicking in for 2013-14.

World Peace will find a new home and the Lakers will find a new starting small forward for a lot less money, but they will always be linked by a put-back against the Suns, a 3-pointer against the Celtics and a union he and Bryant long wanted. That it is time to move on, if the amnesty does happen, is understandable, mostly because of the money. But it was a good run.

Another Hit To Muhammad Draft Stock

CHICAGO – NBA executives are raising the possibility that Shabazz Muhammad could fall out of the first top 10 picks in the NBA Draft and possibly the lottery entirely, the latest draft setback for the UCLA swingman who began the season in the conversation for the No. 1 pick.

Muhammad being on the board until the middle of the first round on June 27 was once inconceivable, and still is to some within the league, for a prospect with the potential to be a scoring star. But in noting his selfish play, poor body language and the new perspective after the discovery Muhammad had been lying about his age, some teams had turned shockingly cold as the annual pre-draft combine Thursday began the first of two days of drills and workouts.

One executive said, on the matter of Muhammad dropping in the draft, “I’m not saying it happens. But I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“Out of the lottery?” another personnel boss said. “I guess it’s possible.”

And from another head of basketball operations, without hesitation, when asked if Muhammad could fall from the top 14: “He could.”

The climate has turned so bad that another general manager savaged the prospect even while saying there is no chance Muhammad gets out of the lottery, and maybe doesn’t even reach double digits.

“It’s his overall attitude,” that executive said. “His presentation of himself. It’s an all-about-me presentation. I think that’s his biggest knock…. His selfish tendencies on the floor show up at certain times. But that’s what scorers do.”

Indeed, there is the possibility that Muhammad is in the common role of former high school phenom struggling to transition to the college game and now the pros, all with a large spotlight as a recruit expected to help rejuvenate a prominent program. It may simply be a matter of maturing, in play and personality.

Either way, Muhammad has a bad image as the draft approaches, and not just in the moment. Scouts and executives had been increasingly hard on him during his freshman season at UCLA, noting his selfish play with various versions of “He doesn’t get others involved,” the way a star should elevate an entire team. The concern among losing franchises that might take him near the top of the draft was that Muhammad would be little more than a stat stuffer. Clubs in the lottery that already had pieces in place worried that continued work as a volume scorer would create problems on a roster.

His play is the primary concern, but that hit also comes in the wake of the strange discovery in March by the Los Angeles Times that Muhammad, while listed as a 19-year-old by the school, was actually 20. While some teams have already gotten past the concern of what other secrets could jump out down the line, the real issue of the adjusted age became his development. He had been overpowering younger players in high school and some in the one college season, an advantage he would not have among grownups in the NBA, and he suddenly had one less year to develop. Muhammad, simply, was not as advanced for his age as once thought.

“I don’t think that’ll hurt me,” Muhammad said. “To know I’m 20, I’m still pretty young, one of the youngest guys in this draft. I’m just going to see where it takes me.”

Asked what questions he anticipates from teams once he sets a schedule for individual workouts following the lottery outcome on Tuesday night, Muhammad said, “It’s up in the air. It’s going to be really interesting, so I’m looking to that and looking forward to talking to teams and telling them a little bit more about myself.”

But, there will be birth-certificate questions.

“Probably so,” he said. “But I’m going to answer the questions truthfully and tell them what’s really going on.”