By Ben Golliver
The Lakers announced Wednesday that forward Metta World Peace is expected to miss six weeks after he undergoes surgery on Thursday to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.
The prognosis puts his return date in the second week of May, ending his regular season and likely sidelining him for at least the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. L.A. entered Wednesday with a one-game lead over the Jazz and Mavericks for the No. 8 seed with 11 games to play.
World Peace was forced from action during Monday's road loss to the Warriors with an injury that was initially described as a "knee strain." The decision to undergo surgery was made during an examination in L.A. on Wednesday, one day after an MRI conducted in Minnesota revealed the meniscus damage.
Lakers.com reported after Monday's game that World Peace's movement was inhibited after he departed on Monday with seven points in 19 minutes.
In the locker room following the third straight Lakers defeat, World Peace said that the pain and discomfort had subsided, but since he “couldn’t really walk” at halftime, he stayed in the training room to see if a return was possible.
World Peace, 33, has played in all but one game for the Lakers this season, averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.7 steals in 34.6 minutes. His absence continues a revolving door of injuries for the Lakers, who recently got Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol back after ankle and foot injuries, respectively. Forward Jordan Hill is out for the season with a hip injury and guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake have also missed extended stretches.
Coach Mike D'Antoni doesn't have another traditional wing stopper to turn to in World Peace's absence. His options include upping minutes for forwards Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison and/or leaning even more heavily on the likes of Jodie Meeks and Blake in three-guard lineups. Meeks started the second half in place of World Peace on Monday and will start on Wednesday night against the Timberwolves. World Peace is under contract for $7.3 million this season and has a $7.7 million player option for next season. He told NBA.com this week that he would consider opting out of his contract if it would help him remain with the Lakers past next season.