METTA WORLD PEACE
The Lakers' 33-year-old forward, a ringside regular, has been known to embrace combat. Now he's in a battle for his job: L.A. could amnesty the last year (and $7.7 million) of his contract for salary-cap relief.
DAN PATRICK:You were at the Floyd Mayweather--Robert Guerrero fight last weekend. How would you be as a boxer?
METTA WORLD PEACE: I'm pretty quick. I'm pretty tall. I would never give up. I think I'd be O.K.
DP:When's the last time you got punched?
MWP: I get elbowed a lot. [Laughs.]
DP:How would you describe this season with the Lakers?
MWP: It was unfortunate. We just couldn't capitalize on certain moments. I think we were talented enough to win, but injuries didn't help.
DP:What about Dwight Howard's season?
MWP: He was supposed to come back from back surgery in January. He came back in October. He started to play well really around the time he was supposed to come back.
DP:So he came back too soon?
MWP: No, I don't think so. I think the everyday fan doesn't understand when you come back from an injury you're not going to be that All-Star. The media won't say Dwight's not playing well because he's hurt.
DP:What would be the downside of his returning to L.A.?
MWP: I don't think there's a downside. It's just his decision. Maybe he wants to stay in L.A. or maybe he wants to go somewhere else. Or maybe he just wants a vacation.
DP:How much better would the Lakers have been with Phil Jackson as coach?
MWP: Phil obviously has 11 rings as a coach and 13 total. But you don't want to discredit Mike D'Antoni. I think there was a lack of communication. We didn't communicate well enough early to build chemistry. We only had chemistry for 20% of the season.
DP:Do you expect to be a Laker next season?
MWP: You never know. They have salary-cap issues. As of now, I'm getting ready for next season with the Lakers.
DP:If you were Derrick Rose's teammate, how would you feel about his not playing?
MWP: He deserves to [wait until he feels ready]. He could damage his knee again. When he comes back next year, he'll be the old Derrick Rose.
DP:What's your take on Warriors guard Stephen Curry?
MWP: When Steph was in college and he didn't make the NCAA tournament, I was hoping they'd rig the tournament so he could play because he's so exciting. He reminds me of Kobe. He has it in him to take over games and make shots like Kobe, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Shane Battier or Jason Terry.
DP:Who would you rather guard, Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony?
MWP: I would rather guard whoever is the toughest person to guard.
DP:Who's harder to guard?
MWP: Kevin's a little tougher. He's just tall. I can't really block Melo's shot either, but when Kevin rises up, there's nothing you can do. I like that. It's fun.
"I had an advantage Jason did not have. I'm English. The American media and most of the American people don't seem to know the difference between a British person and a gay person anyway."
—JOHN AMAECHI, former NBA player, on why he had an easier time coming out than Jason Collins
I asked Warriors guard Stephen Curry if anyone can guard him one-on-one. "They could probably have a good possession or two where they force me into a tough shot," Curry said. "I still think I could make it with any kind of defense—let's put it that way." ... After Jason Collins came out, Martina Navratilova explained why women's sexuality isn't covered the same way as men's. "With women it's always been assumed that if you're a really good athlete you must be a lesbian," Navratilova said. "So women always have to prove their heterosexuality in sports." ... P.J. Carlesimo told me losing to the Bulls in the first round wasn't why he was fired as Nets coach. "The reasons don't matter," he said. "Anything short of a championship wasn't going to change [management's] mind." ... Trainer Doug O'Neill said last year's Kentucky Derby winner, I'll Have Another, is thriving as a stud in Japan. I asked what horses get for the $40,000 fee. "It includes a little talk before and after," O'Neill said. "And he'll usually leave a parting gift."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
TOM SZCZERBOWSKI/USA TODAY SPORTS (WORLD PEACE)
ROBERT BECK/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (CURRY)
JOHN HARRELSON/GETTY IMAGES FOR NASCAR (NAVRATILOVA)
ERICK W. RASCO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (CARLESIMO)
ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES (O'NEILL)