Most seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers a regular season game in March, against the New Orleans Hornets, doesn’t have that much meaning. This season isn’t like most when it comes to the Lakers. Los Angeles is still trying to fight their way back into the playoffs and this season, every game is important, every win is vital and a loss against the Hornets to send the Lakers back under .500 could have been crippling. It didn’t happen though. Thanks to a dominant fourth quarter and some huge plays down the stretch, Los Angeles showed incredible fight and rallied from 20 points down in New Orleans to steal the game and stay .500. They did it on the same night when the Utah Jazz, who the Lakers are trying to run down in the standings, threw a game away against Cleveland. The win has now put L.A. within a game and a half of the playoffs. It’s as close as they have been in the second half of the season. Some will try to downplay the importance of the comeback against New Orleans but it could be the watershed moment of the 2012-2013 season for the Lakers.
Metta World Peace joined ESPN Radio Los Angeles with Max and Marcellus to talk about what happened against the Hornets, what he thinks the problem is offensively, what the team can take away from the comeback win against New Orleans and his support for Dwight Howard this season when it seems like everyone has criticized him.
On what happened against the Hornets:
“What happened was we were down 20 and when you’re involved in the game you pretty much need to move on to the next play. Even God said ‘you don’t know what is going to happen in the next moment.’ It’s true. You just wait and stay in the moment. Don’t try to predict the future, don’t get frustrated, things like that. I’ve tried to preach that to my team in the huddle and keep everybody relaxed. (Host: I heard even God was worried about that game. God didn’t turn it off until the last play. He couldn’t believe the way you guys came back.) I’m just saying as an example. Everybody just stayed focused. Kobe was being Superman. Dwight (Howard) just stayed with it. Everybody stayed in the moment and the veteran team won.”
On the issues offensively:
“I think offensively we just have to continue to play hard. Kobe is playing at a high level right now and I think guys have to stop watching him at times and just play at the highest level they can play at. We can’t do all the great things that Kobe can do but you can be as great as you can be, so that means Earl (Clark) has to take it coast-to-coast every now and then. Steve Nash has to do his thing. Obviously it’s not going to be Kobe Bryant-ish, but just be as great as you can be. And as long as we stop watching Kobe and doing what’s best for the team I think that’s going to convert into great team play. Myself, I don’t mind making mistakes and I don’t mind not looking as good as Kobe, but I’m looking as good as I can look which is going to help the team in the long run. We have to get everybody on that level where everybody is playing 100 percent.”
What they can take away from the comeback win over the Hornets:
“Nothing really, because at the end of the day, even if we would’ve lost that game, I’m still playing for championships, I couldn’t care less. If we lose that game, we’re still coming out number one at the end of the season so that game means nothing to me.”
On his support for Dwight Howard this season:
“Of course because you never know what somebody is going through in their life, you never know what somebody is going through physically, mentally, you never know if somebody is not ready for this pressure, you never know what anybody is going through. All you can do is support. Even as a teammate, a fan, a coach or whatever, you just have to be there by their side. I learned that from playing with Derek Fisher. I learned that just being egotistical early in my career. You gotta be there for your teammates because all you have is each other. I know that for a fact. You’re not going to win with just one person. At the end of the day, when you win, it says the Lakers champions or the Heat champions last year, it doesn’t say one name. We need everybody, even the 12th man.”
Whether he feels a special kinship with Dwight Howard because they are both focused on defense:
“Well, he’s different. He plays defense and he’s an awesome defensive player, but I’m not passing nothing on. I’m trying to win rings. I’m definitely not passing no torches. I still feel I’m very strong in the post. I still want to be a compliment to Dwight. I’m not trying to pass torches. If I pass it that means I gave up on my season and my career. (Host: No I mean to feel like you’re a mentor because you’re a defensive stopper and that’s what he needs to be?) Dwight, he’s a young player and he’s going to sign a multi-year deal regardless of whether it is here or somewhere else and no matter how many points he scores per game. There were games where I played the year we won the Finals where I had two points but I played 40 minutes. Usually you say if a guy is going to play 40 minutes and only have two points, should he play 40 minutes? You say no. But it’s just the impact that Dwight has on the game with his deflections, changing of shots, his rebounding, his physical play, he should appreciate his size and ability has a bigger effect on the game.”