Lakers-Suns Q&A with Brian Kamenetzky

In advance of this weekend’s home-and-home series with the Los Angeles Lakers, Valley of the Suns exchanged questions with ESPN Land O’ Lakers writer Brian Kamenetzky. Here’s what he had to say:

Ryan Weisert: Since it would be far too broad a question to ask “What’s wrong with Metta World Peace?” I’ll just ask  what seems to be wrong with him on the court?

Brian Kamenetzky: In the simplest terms, he’s just not the athlete he once was. He doesn’t have the lift or the first step or dexterity, particularly on offense. He struggles to get off the ground. It didn’t help that MWP showed up to camp overweight, and has been trying to play his way into shape. To some degree, it’s been effective, because World Peace’s body is finally getting where it needs to be, and it’s led to better results on the floor. Not so much offensively, where it’s still very much a hit or miss (mostly miss) thing, but on the other end. There have been more of those games where World Peace has a noticeable impact. He shut down Danilo Gallinari in Denver, Paul Pierce in Boston, and did good work against Joe Johnson the other night. He’s still not the true lockdown guy he once was on a possession to possession basis, but can still be a positive force.

Unfortunately for the Lakers it really does appear his days as a truly effective two-way player are over. It’s at the point now that we all notice when he does stuff well, because it’s not the norm. That’s an ugly place for an athlete to be. Still, if he can be neutral in his impact, it will make the Lakers a better team going forward because to this point Metta has been a liability.

RW: Can the Lakers contend for the title? Do they need to make a move before the deadline? If so, what is their greatest need?

BK: As constructed, they can’t. They absolutely need to upgrade, starting with finding another ball handler to take the pressure off Kobe Bryant. I hesitate to say they need a point guard specifically (though that would certainly be nice) because that skill set would help them anywhere on the roster. From there, the Lakers need another guy who can create off the dribble, capable of producing shots for himself and others, and some reliable bench scoring. A couple of these needs can be filled by the same guy, if need be. The Lakers don’t need a massive upgrade, particularly at the top of the roster. Spots 1-3 are in great shape, with Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. It’s slots 4-14 that are problematic.

RW: Is there anyone on the Lakers’ roster poised to break out and have a big impact on the second half of the season?

BK: Nobody I’d point to with confidence. Steve Blake has made an impact since returning from injury, and having him around for the rest of the year will make them better. But if he plays up to his level, that level is still Steve Blake. Maybe Andrew Goudelock continues his production, which has been a surprise. Maybe Josh McRoberts, currently out of the rotation, works his way back in. Beyond that? I’m not putting my money on Metta or Derek Fisher, and there’s definitely a concern the Lakers and Mike Brown could burn through the energy of Kobe, Bynum, and Pau before the playoffs arrive. Those guys are doing some serious heavy lifting right now.

You can check out our Suns Q&A with Brian here.

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