World Peace participated in drills with the Lakers on Monday, and the veteran forward said he's ready to return nearly a month earlier than anticipated after surgery on a torn meniscus. With just five games left to get into playoff position, the Lakers (40-37) host New Orleans on Tuesday night.
"We've got a chance to make a push for this championship run," World Peace told reporters after practice at the Lakers' training complex. "We all need it. All the guys under contract, injured or not injured, we all need each other to make a run at this thing."
After a tumultuous season, the big-budget Lakers are running out of time even to make the playoffs. They trail Utah (41-37) for the eighth postseason spot in the Western Conference, and the Jazz hold the tiebreaker on Los Angeles.
The Lakers thought World Peace would be out until early May after undergoing surgery March 28, following a typical recovery time for knee surgery.
But there's nothing typical about the former Ron Artest, and the Lakers' defensive stopper says he feels healthy enough to play because his knee didn't swell following surgery, surprising his doctors.
"I think you try to prepare in the summertime for the season, and I think the way I eat prepares me for times like this," World Peace said. "There was no swelling. You can take a lot of medicine for swelling, but if you eat right, when you get injured, the swelling is minimized. Off meniscus surgery, you can play, but the swelling is what keeps you from playing."
World Peace has missed the Lakers' last six games with the latest injury in a long list for the 16-time NBA champions.
Even if World Peace returns as planned, Lakers point guard Steve Nash is likely to miss his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury. The 39-year-old Nash missed nearly two months early in the season with a small fracture in his lower left leg.
Kobe Bryant has struggled with several injuries in recent weeks, missing two games and playing just one quarter in a third game because of a sprained left ankle. Pau Gasol, who missed time early this season with a concussion, returned from a seven-week absence with a right foot injury one game before World Peace hurt his knee in a loss at Golden State in late March.
Top bench scorer Antawn Jamison is playing with a sprained wrist, and All-Star center Dwight Howard hasn't been 100 percent healthy all season after summer back surgery. Backup point guard Steve Blake missed 37 games with an abdominal injury, and top backup big man Jordan Hill has been out since early January after surgery on his left hip.