The man formerly known as Ron Artest says the blame game just comes with the territory in Los Angeles, where championships are routinely expected of the Lakers.
And he’s OK bearing the brunt of it.
“If we don’t win, kick me in the L4 or L5 nerve,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s right below your buttocks. You ever been kicked in the buttocks? Kick me right there.”
Lakers fans starved for another title have all but already begun planning another celebratory parade following the recent blockbuster trade that brought powering center Dwight Howard to Los Angeles.
His addition, plus the free-agent signing of crafty point guard Steve Nash and the return of 14-time NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant and versatile big man Pau Gasol has Laker Nation giddy about the franchise’s possible 17th championship.
If not, World Peace says the blame should fall at his feet.
They just may if the Lakers’ blend of All-Stars don’t form a cohesive unit that can compensate for the lack of quickness – especially on the perimeter – that many of their Western Conference rivals especially will boast.
World Peace, a burly 6-foot-7 small forward, is coming off the worst statistical year of his 13-year NBA career last season. His 7.7 points per game were a career-low, while his 3.4 rebounds per contest marked his second-lowest total. World Peace managed just 39 percent shooting from the floor last year, including just shy of 30 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, while playing a career-low 26.9 minutes per game.
Overall, his scoring has dipped precipitously over each of the last four seasons. It’s unclear how that he might stop that slide, given the fewer offensive opportunities he figures to have in his team’s revamped powerhouse lineup.
But World Peace, who signed a five-year, $33 million deal with the Lakers in 2009, is doing his part to help. He now weighs 255 pounds, 13 fewer than the 268 at which he began last year.
“I’m ready to be a part of something special, definitely ready to play good ball,” he said. “It’s not going to take me until April to be at that elite level.”
World Peace drew the ire of many basketball fans everywhere this spring when he elbowed Oklahoma City guard James Harden to the face to give him a concussion.