For the first time in his 16-year NBA career, Metta World Peace had to claw his way to the Opening Day roster.
The former Defensive Player of the Year, all-star and NBA champion did just that, as the Lakers waived Jabari Brown, which cemented World Peace’s status among LA’s 15-man lineup.
The 35-year-old kept an even keel throughout the process, continuously saying that he wouldn’t concern himself with the possibility of being cut from the squad. To World Peace, there was no sense in worrying over a decision out of his hands.
“It’s the first time I’ve been in the position where I’m on a non-guaranteed (contract) and fighting for a spot,” he said at Monday’s practice. “But I don’t change as a person.”
World Peace’s path back to an NBA roster has been a winding one. The Lakers waived him before the 2013-14 season, though he was soon picked up by New York. However, his time with the Knicks lasted just 29 games before being waived again.
He spent last season about as far from the NBA as geographically possible, playing in China and Italy.
“It wasn’t easy being a vet and trying to get back in the league,” World Peace said. “It was not easy. It was working hard all over again. I don’t want people to think that I just didn’t work and somehow got lucky.”
That hard work included preparing himself both mentally and physically, according to World Peace. Head coach Byron Scott likes what he can bring with the former, which includes serving as a mentor to young players like Julius Randle.
“That’s the part of the experience we felt we needed,” Scott said. “We got a ton of young guys. No doubt about that. … I think Metta’s the kind of guy that can keep everybody together.”
But World Peace’s inclusion did come at the cost of Brown, which Scott called “the most difficult cut that I’ve ever had to make.”
The 22-year-old Brown played 19 games for LA last season, averaging 11.9 points, including 19.8 in five starts. The Oakland native also played 39 contests for the Los Angeles D-Fenders last year and led the D-League with 24.4 points per game.
“It was a very, very, very, extremely difficult decision,” Scott said. “But we really went over trying to balance the youth and experience on this team. Obviously Metta has that experience. Talking to Jabari was probably the hardest because I’ve gotten to know him over the past couple of seasons, and we still feel this kid’s gonna be in the NBA a long time.”