While this week is little more than an opportunity for NBA super teams to polish their superiority, or chaotic franchises to define their identities, it has been something much bigger and more important for Metta World Peace. The one-time NBA star and part-time stand-up comic returned to Indiana on Tuesday night for what was likely the final time he will ever play against his old team in front of the fans who once adored him when he was Ron Artest.
The Lakers dropped their record to 1-3 with a 108-115 loss to the Pacers, and World Peace’s contribution was limited to two successful free throws in two minutes of play. But the story hasn’t been about how he’d play against his former team as much as what his time in Indiana meant to him. Obviously, we can’t talk about that without bringing up the Malice at the Palace, but this has surprisingly mostly been about reflection and regret.
When it comes to the latter, World Peace tells ESPN that he still hasn’t let himself off the hook for the awful way his time with the Pacers ended.
Even if World Peace’s career moves on, ever closer to his overall goal of playing for 20 seasons, he said he won’t ever recover from how his Pacers tenure ended, especially because he believed so many people in and around the franchise truly liked him, cared for him, tried to help him at every turn, but he didn’t do right by them.
“That’s what I feel most bad about to this day,” World Peace told ESPN. “That’s something that I can never, ever forgive myself for. I don’t regret it, but I definitely can’t forgive myself for that.”
World Peace still speaks very fondly of the 2004-05 Pacers roster, which he calls a “hell of a team,” and he certainly recalls how well he played, especially when he was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.
“I was amazing,” World Peace said. “My defense, my offense, they had never seen it. Not really. I was the last defensive player of the year here. I think I got the highest individual award here. They remember that, to have one of the best on your team. It’s going to be, somebody might surpass what I’ve done here. There were games when I was getting eight steals and 25 points. It was pretty cool. For me it was fun.” (Via the LA Times)
However, he also takes credit for ruining the fun and the team’s hopes. When, then, can World Peace rest and stop punishing himself over his past mistakes?
“Honestly, for me, when the Pacers win a championship, I’ll feel a little bit better,” he said. “That will make me feel a little bit better.” (Via ESPN)
So, not this season. Maybe next year, though.