Former Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace doesn’t think the Phoenix Suns would be in the NBA Finals if the health of star players — particularly on the Lakers — did not become an issue this postseason.
World Peace shared his take during an interview with BasketballNews.com, where he was asked about the NBA Finals and what stood out to him. As a note, the interview was done before Game 5, which the Suns lost 123-119, falling behind 3-2 in the series.
“Besides all the injuries that have just been plaguing a lot of the great players, what has caught my eye about this series really is Chris Paul. I don’t necessarily believe right now, especially that it’s 2-2, that the Suns are going to win. But going into the series when it was 0-0, I kind of thought the Suns would win,” World Peace told Chris Sheridan. “You know, people and boys change their picks. I thought the Suns would win. And when they went up 2-0, you think they would win. Now that it’s tied 2-2, it’s showing that Giannis [Antetokounmpo] is the greatest player. Now imagine, Giannis, one of the greatest players in the league, doesn’t really have to go up against the greatest team, then you would say Giannis was going to win. Because the Lakers got hurt. The Lakers were going to beat Phoenix before Anthony Davis got hurt.”
After dropping the opener of their first-round series against the Suns, the Lakers won two in a row and looked to be in control after a convincing Game 3 victory. However, injuries quickly set things off-course for the already banged-up Lakers, with Davis going out with a groin strain, adding to the extensive list of lower-body injuries he suffered during the year. And with LeBron James not at 100% due to an ankle injury, the defending champs lost three games in a row to the Suns, seeing their repeat chances upended.
Others Agree Suns Were Beneficiaries of Injuries
World Peace isn’t the first and won’t be the last to point out the various injuries that aided the Suns’ run to the Finals. ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler made a similar point while on the Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe.
“If the Lakers don’t break down, Kawhi doesn’t go down or even Jamal Murray is healthy, the Phoenix Suns don’t make the NBA Finals,” Legler said. “They weren’t ready to take this leap. Injuries played a large part in it cause what you’re seeing now is this: they need another guy. They don’t have enough. Their roster is not enough.”
So perhaps the road was a bit easier for the Suns but Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton would have provided a stiff test for the Western Conference regardless of health. After all, there’s a reason Phoenix finished 51-21 record during the regular season and were up 2-0 in their series against the Bucks in the Finals.
Metta World Peace Makes Olympic Plea
Another interesting tidbit from the interview with World Peace was his plea on wanting to play for Team USA and bulk up his resume with a gold medal. The invitation never came while he was in his prime in the NBA, but he’s willing to get creative for a shot.
“Hopefully one day an honorary jersey, end of the bench. I even told them I would get the water. I literally called the office. I told my agent, ‘Can I even be the water boy? Something?’ So every time someone brings up the Olympians, I rant, I rant I rant. I am an Olympian, for sure. I am an Olympian, a gold medalist, and I truly believe that.”