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NBA AM: Metta World Peace Defends Kobe Bryant

Father Time has robbed Kobe Bryant of his athleticism and critics have emerged. Metta World Peace defends his teammate.

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Metta World Peace Defending Kobe Bryant

It doesn’t matter the sport: Father Time is and will always remain undefeated. Even the most dominant stars are routinely reduced to old wily veterans who are forced to utilize their guile in place of eroding athleticism.

Future Hall of Fame guard Kobe Bryant is just the latest casualty. Bryant hasn’t appeared in a playoff game since May 21, 2012. The Los Angeles Lakers have posted a dreadful 93-157 (.372) regular season mark since that time. To put things in perspective, Bryant has appeared in just 123 out of those 250 contests mainly due to injuries.

The end of an era is rapidly approaching and, with that, comes critics who were forced to bite their tongues in years past when Bryant was at the top of his craft.

Lakers forward Metta World Peace, who played internationally in China last season, believes the criticism of Bryant is unwarranted and admits part of the reason he wanted to rejoin the team now was to aid the aging star.

“I’m really happy to be here to support him,” World Peace told Vlad TV in a recent interview. “Everybody is talking bad about him. Talking about he’s getting old and can’t play, [how he’s] selfish this and selfish that. [Free agents] not coming to play with him because they’re afraid of him. So I said, you know what? Let me get back to the Lakers. People don’t realize I’m on a non-guaranteed contract and I got back to the Lakers. I had to earn this.

“But I definitely want to be there for Kobe and support him. Hopefully I can ride it out with him. Kind of like I said, [I’ll] be there through thick and through thin. Kobe got me my [championship] ring. Without Kobe, I don’t have my ring. I’ve seen him take over games by himself.”

Bryant is off to a slow start to the 2015-16 campaign, averaging 15.8 points, four rebounds and 2.5 assists in 28 minutes for the winless Lakers. But despite the slow start, World Peace says Bryant approaches each game with the same intensity.

“What’s the difference [between] playing with Kobe or against him?” World Peace pondered. “Nothing. He’s just so competitive. You can feel the fire when you’re in the room with Kobe. It’s really cool. When I played against him, I just felt the heat. Whether he’s playing against me, LeBron James or Gerald Wallace, he feels the same. He don’t care and it’s the same thing when you play on his team.  He feels the same way, so there’s really no difference.”

World Peace has yet to appear in a game for Los Angeles this season and figures to serve more as an experienced locker room presence than an on-court producer for this unit. The veteran stated he understands his current role and addressed why he opted to play overseas last season instead of signing a new deal.

“In the NBA, you have teams that are trying to groom players and then you have players that are getting big salaries that have to play because the organizations want them to earn their money because that’s their investment,” World Peace said. “So you don’t really get a chance to just play basketball like you are on shirts or skins and the best player is actually going to play. Sometimes [in the NBA], the best player might be sitting on the bench.

“So I figured I would come back to the NBA, but I wanted to finish my career [by] at least doing me. Maybe doing step back threes, fadeaways, post up defense, in and outs. [I could do that in China], whereas if I would have stayed in the NBA it would have been more structured. So I said I’m going to go to China and get my game on. I have a lot of great highlights in China. In and out threes, step back fadeaways, a few ejections … you got to get those. In Italy too. I had a lot of great things going in Italy, but now I’m back in the NBA. Now, it’s back to doing what you’re supposed too.

“People thought I got old and that I couldn’t play anymore or that I was injured. There were little messages being sent out by the media. Messages being sent out by agents. There are only 400 spots [in the NBA]. So I’m taking one spot and people started sending messages saying I was old and couldn’t play anymore. It’s really hard to get in the NBA.”

The Lakers (0-4) embark on a five-game road trip over the next week with games against Brooklyn, New York, Miami, Orlando and Dallas.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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