Los Angeles Lakers Preseason: Metta World Peace Slimmer, More Focused

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace is apparently in incredible shape and has come to training camp looking fitter than he has since his days with the Indiana Pacers. And with that, the good news and positivity continue to flow out of Los Angeles like water.

It's a wonder the NBA doesn't just ship the Larry O'Brien trophy to Staples Center early.

All joking aside, World Peace will be perhaps the team's most important role player in 2012, and he will need to be of sound mind to grasp the nuances of the Princeton offense and gel with his new teammates. His numbers in 2011-2012 left a lot to be desired -- a career-low 7.7 points per game that saw him struggle mightily from the perimeter with a 30 percent mark from deep.

That was a year to forget for the man formerly known as Ron Artest. He came into camp last season weighing 274 pounds, and for a stretch early in the year, went eight games without a single bucket from the arc. That can't happen again, and likely won't given his level of focus in training camp in 2012. Now down to a svelte 249, he credits a new program and approach.

"The thinking behind that was just healthy living," World Peace said. "I got with this company, and this training exercise that I've been doing has been really amazing."

But the Lakers will have plenty of offense, and it will be the defensive side of the ball where World Peace's contributions will be needed the most. It's not a coincidence that he won the NBA's coveted Defensive Player of the Year award the last time he was in this kind of condition. That's how championships are won, with every player doing what they do well.

On this Lakers team, World Peace will have the role of defensive stopper -- something he'll be much better at in top condition.

Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Lakers as a Southern California-based sports journalist, editor, and blogger. You can read him on SB Nation and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor and Founder of Sports Out West.

You can follow Michael on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets

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