The Lakers still have two cuts to make before getting down to the roster maximum of 15 before the regular season. We have covered this ground already, so I won’t bore you with more words on the case for keeping the the guys on the bubble. Just know that this is likely a choice between Yi Jianlian, Thomas Robinson, and Metta World Peace.
Well, according to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne, maybe Metta isn’t really in the mix for that final spot. Because, if he really were, I doubt they would already be looking at him as a potential assistant coach if he gets cut. From the ESPN dynamic duo:
The odds are against Metta World Peace making the Los Angeles Lakers’ Opening Night roster, but the Lakers have interest in keeping the veteran forward around as an assistant coach if they can’t make room for him as an active player, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that World Peace’s impact as a mentor to young players last season was a big reason they invited him to training camp again under new coach Luke Walton.
This is the role many hoped for Metta last year, but Metta made the team as the final add when Bryon Scott, in what he called a very difficult decision, made Jabari Brown the final cut of the preseason. The argument then is the same one it is now: that if the value you are extracting from the player is almost entirely as a mentor, then using a roster spot on him is a misallocation of resources.
Last year, though, the argument could be made that if it was a choice between keeping Metta or Brown, the roster composition could make leaning towards Metta a rational choice. Metta had proven to be a great mentor for Julius Randle (and the other youngsters) while also serving as an ally for Kobe Bryant for championship battles past.
This year, that case is less strong. Randle (and the other youngsters) is a year older, Kobe is gone, and the team has stiffer competition for the final roster spot.
And, really, it’s that last point which matters. In a battle between Metta and Jabari, you could make a 1-to-1 comp about value add. Now Metta is up against at least two other players (Yi and Robinson) and maybe even more (Anthony Brown, Nick Young). This complicates the decision and, in the end, makes it more difficult for him to win out.
Now, whether Metta would accept a job as an assistant remains to be seen. Metta has said he wants to play several more years. Of course, Metta says a lot of things. But, he has gone to China and Italy to keep playing. And some team might still pay him to mentor/teach from the bench as a player rather than as an assistant as the Lakers want him to do. As I argued last year, the dynamic changes when colleagues interact if the role changes from player to coach.
For what it’s worth, I would welcome Coach World Peace. There was a point in his career where the idea of Metta as a coach would have been mocked. But over the years he really has found a niche as a mentor and voice of reason who can be a sounding board to young players. We will see how this plays out, but however it goes, I wish him well.