By Ben Golliver
Metta World Peace told reporters Monday that he plans to return to the Lakers' lineup less than two weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee that was supposed to sideline him for six weeks.
The Los Angeles Times reports that World Peace plans to play when the Lakers host the Hornets at the Staples Center on Tuesday night.
"It's not about how strong I am playing tomorrow 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."
A Tuesday return would come just 12 days after World Peace underwent surgery that was expected to end his 2012-13 regular season. The Lakers surely need him: L.A. is currently one-half game behind Utah for the No. 8 playoff seed in the Western Conference with just five games to play, and the Jazz hold the tie-breaker.
World Peace, 33, is averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.7 steals this season and is clearly L.A.'s best perimeter defender. The Lakers are 4-2 since he departed a March 25 game against the Warriors with what was initially dubbed a "knee strain" and now enter what is essentially "win-or-go-home" mode with a little more than one week remaining in the season. Coach Mike D'Antoni has tightened an already tight rotation in World Peace's absence, playing as few as seven Lakers, with starting point guard Steve Nash also sidelined for the last three games with a hamstring/hip injury.
The recovery timeline sounds superhuman, but it's not unprecedented. Then-Blazers guard Brandon Roy returned just eight days after surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee, suiting up against the Suns during the 2010 playoffs. Critics questioned Roy's decision to return so suddenly and his statistics dipped sharply the following season and have not yet recovered. Indeed, Roy sat out the 2011-12 season in unofficial retirement and could be headed for retirement again this summer after playing just five games for the Timberwolves this season.
World Peace doesn't have the same history of knee trouble that Roy did and he's in the latter stages of his career, where the desire to win now carries less long-term risk simply because of his age. Still, while meniscus repair surgery is a relatively minor procedure -- compared to an ACL repair or microfracture surgery -- there's no denying that returning a fully month before initially anticipated is incredibly aggressive. Not that World Peace's competitiveness has even been in question, but Lakers fans have to appreciate this sacrifice given the team's adversity this season.
ESPNLA.com notes that World Peace actually called his shot on the fast rehabilitation prior to undergoing surgery.
After the injury he tweeted, "First ever knee injury. Recovery time hopefully is a week and a half." He would later delete the tweet but be right about the recovery time.
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 in March
that he would consider opting out of his contract if it would help him remain with the Lakers past next season.