Metta World Peace said Monday that he plans to play when the Los Angeles Lakers take on the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center on Tuesday night, according to ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi. That, of course, is crazy.
The Lakers forward underwent surgery on March 28 to repair a tear to the lateral meniscus in his left knee — a procedure that the Lakers said would require six weeks, or 42 days, of recovery time. By Tuesday's tip, he'll have had 12. Again: Crazy.
And yet, the former Ron Artest participated in Monday's practice, ran on a treadmill and played 3-on-3, and Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters that so long as World Peace suffered no setbacks following Monday's workout, there is an 80 percent to 90 percent chance that the forward would be back in the lineup come Tuesday.
That high likelihood of seeing action doesn't necessarily mean that World Peace is 100 percent, though:
Asked Metta if in pain "if I was wouldnt tell you" discomfort? "If I was wouldnt tell you" so ur 100% "im ready to go"
— Beto Duran (@DuranSports) April 8, 2013
But with the Lakers now trailing the Utah Jazz by a half-game for the eighth playoff spot out West, it appears that World Peace wants to shove aside the pain and make himself available for the final days of L.A.'s postseason push. Further, it appears that the decision wasn't too difficult for him to make — as World Peace told reporters, including Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, if it was up to World Peace, he'd have been back ages ago:
"It's not about how strong I am playing [Tuesday] night," said World Peace. "It's about how strong I was playing three games ago. I was ready to play."
The doctors "were amazed at how the swelling didn't even exist. That's off of meniscus surgery," he said. "You can play, but it's the swelling that keeps you from playing. I didn't have [any swelling] and that's why I wanted to play right away."
That World Peace not only wanted to get back on the court as quickly as possible, but actually appears able to do so, doesn't surprise teammate Kobe Bryant at all, according to USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick:
"I call him Logan now — he's Wolverine," Bryant said of the popular X-Men character [whose special power is healing at a vastly accelerated rate].
Metta World Beast is more like it.
"I'm not very surprised," Bryant also said. "He takes care of himself. He eats all the right stuff. Still, it's extremely impressive."
And extremely surprising, although perhaps it shouldn't be totally shocking — World Peace sounded very optimistic about the timetable for his recovery in
speaking with Pincus last Wednesday:
"I can't tell you how well it's doing, but it's good," World Peace said. "Just wait and see." [...]
While he wouldn't suggest that he'll be back sooner (despite saying "Knowing me, I'd play with one leg if I had to"), World Peace was enthusiastic at his progress to date.
"I was on the crutches for a couple of days, but it just gets better every half of day -- it improves," he said. "I'm very encouraged."
D'Antoni and company will welcome World Peace back with open arms — he's been the Lakers' steadiest perimeter defender this season (which, admittedly, isn't saying much) and while the Lakers have gone 4-2 in the six games he's been sidelined, they've allowed opponents to score at a rate of 106.5 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com's stat tool, which is the equivalent of a bottom-five NBA defense and well below their already-not-so-hot season average.
While he hasn't been an exceptional offense contributor, shooting just 40.5 percent from the floor and 34.7 percent from 3-point range, World Peace has made a significant impact for D'Antoni, and the difference between the Lakers with World Peace and without him has been notable all season long. In the 2,425 minutes he's been on the court this season, L.A. has outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions; in the 1,281 minutes he's been off the court, L.A. has been outscored by four points-per-100. Both "net efficiency ratings" lead the Lakers, outstripping even Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash (who, by the way, is doubtful to return to the L.A. lineup on Tuesday).
It's basically impossible to predict how effective World Peace will be in coming back less than two weeks removed from knee surgery, but any boost he could give the Lakers would help as they look to once again leapfrog the Jazz in the race for the No. 8 seed. With Utah holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over L.A. after winning the season series between the two teams, the Lakers will have to win two more games than the Jazz before the end of the season; if the Jazz go 2-2 over their final four games, for example, L.A. must go 4-1 over its final five.
It's a difficult path to travel, but if nothing else, World Peace seems intent to walk it with his teammates. One of these days, he'll have to let us in on the secret of coming back from a six-week surgery in less than a fortnight, but for now, Lakers fans will be happy to have him back.