Metta World Peace had earned a lot of good will through community service and good behavior on the court, but all it took was one moment to bring it all down, again. Photo by Jeff LewisWorld Peace had been playing extremely well as of late. This month he is averaging 14.1 points per game, compared to only 3.6 in January, 5.0 in February, and 8.3 in March. Photo by Jeff Lewis Andrew Bynum continues to show inconsistencies in his play, which led to him being benched for a second time this season. Photo by Jeff LewisJordan Hill spent a lot of time on the bench, only playing a total of 18 minutes in 22 games. But against the Thunder he played for 35 minutes and scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds while playing for a benched Bynum. Photo by Jeff LewisAndrew Bynum was last week’s curious case, but he has nothing on Metta World Peace. By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
Up until this past Sunday, Lakers small forward Metta World Peace had earned a lot of good will points by playing well on the court and performing community service off of it. All the drama from a week ago was coming from center Andrew Bynum, who has been having issues dealing with his new stardom. Well Bynum can thank World Peace for taking him out of the headlines, and all it took was one moment that lasted a split second. World Peace has become one of the leading advocates for mental health, mainly because of his own issues, which led to the 2004 brawl with the fans in Detroit when he was playing for the Indiana Pacers. World Peace seems to be a good guy, but it is like there is a switch that when turned on, watch out. When he gets emotional it appears that the slightest thing can set him off. That is pretty much happened this past Sunday against Oklahoma City. World Peace stated after the game that when he dunked on Kevin Durant he was “real excited and real emotional.” That does not seem to be a good state of mind for him to be in, and the results after James Harden slightly bumped into him was a World Peace elbow to Harden’s head. It did not appear that World Peace had a reason to throw an elbow at Harden, and Harden certainly did not do anything to warrant a blow of that nature. It appeared that the elbow was not premeditated, and that World Peace did not intend to knock Harden out, but he did knock Harden out. He did deliver a blow that has no place in basketball. He went so far pass the line, even if he did not intend to do it, the seven game suspension was warranted.There has been debate over how long the suspension should have been, with people saying anywhere from five games to the entire post season, but there is not any debate whether he should or should not be suspended. World Peace is the current J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner, which is an award given to a player or coach who shows “outstanding service and dedication to the community.” Off the court World Peace has done all the right things, and his behavior on the court for the most part since the brawl in Detroit has been good. But this one moment pretty much wiped all that away, which is why a long suspension was coming. This incident was reckless and it raises safety issues for opposing players. The suspension will be a tough blow for the Lakers, because World Peace is finally healthy, which has led to him playing some of the best basketball that he has played since joining the Lakers. In the seven games that Kobe Bryant missed, World Peace averaged 16.3 points per game. This month he is averaging 14.1 points per game, compared to only 3.6 in January, 5.0 in February, and 8.3 in March. World Peace’s shooting percentage is also up. He shot 27 percent in January, 38 percent in February, 37 percent in March, and he is up to 47 percent in April. The Lakers will have some issues with losing World Peace, which is just one more problem that they are dealing with. Bynum, who has been a bit of a problem child this year, was benched again in the double overtime victory over the Thunder, but that has pretty much flown under the radar because of the World Peace incident. Lakers coach Mike Brown informed power forward Jordan Hill to be ready for more playing time after the blowout loss at San Antonio, which was the second time the Spurs routed the Lakers in a week. Before the Oklahoma City game, Hill had scored a total of 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds in 18 minutes of play over the course of 22 games. But with Bynum playing with little emotion or aggressiveness, Brown turned to Hill for the fourth period and both overtime periods. Hill finally got his chance, and he made the most of it by scoring 14 points and pulling down 15 rebounds in 35 minutes of play. One theory behind trading Derek Fisher for Hill, besides it being a salary dump, was that Hill would add depth to the Lakers front line. He’d give them another big body and give Bynum and Pau Gasol, who are both in the top 10 in minutes played, some rest. But up until now Hill was never used in that capacity. Hill gave the Lakers everything that Bynum should every game. Heart and hustle. Those two qualities are the only two things that keep Bynum from being the best center in the league. When Bynum brings it, he is unstoppable, but he does not always bring it, which is why he continues to attract negative press. With Bynum playing hard and a healthy World Peace, this Lakers team would have a chance. But World Peace will be out, and there is no telling if Bynum is going to show up. As of right now it is hard to believe that the Lakers are a legitimate contender for the NBA title. It looks like they will get the Thunder in the second round, and even though the Lakers just beat them, that is not a good match up at all. Remember, the Thunder were up on the Lakers by 18 points at halftime, and they ran the Lakers off the court in the previous two meetings this season.
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