Injury-riddled doesn't even begin to describe the Los Angeles Lakers.
The latest victim of Hollywood's afflicted machine is Metta World Peace. Per Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, he has a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.
Latest Lakers setback: Metta World Peace has a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. He is returning to LA for further examination.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) March 27, 2013
Torn meniscus' are no joke. Just ask boy wonder Jeremy Lin. Or even Metta himself.
According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, World Peace needs surgery and will be about approximately six weeks.
Lakers forward Metta World Peace will have surgery tomorrow for a torn lateral meniscus and is expected to be out 6 weeks.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) March 27, 2013
More troubling than the tear itself is what it represents. World Peace's injury serves as a reminder that these Lakers are never going to be completely healthy.
His knee isn't the primary piece of evidence. It's the final burden of proof.
Steve Nash essentially began the season with an injured shin. Steve Blake followed suit with an abdominal abrasion. Pau Gasol has been battling plantar fasciitis all year. Jordan Hill is done for the season. Kobe Bryant is fresh off a severely sprained ankle. Antawn Jamison's wrist is limiting him. Dwight Howard is still playing through pain in his back (and shoulder).
And now this.
World Peace was having his best season in three years. He's averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals. His offensive rating (105) is the second highest of his tenure in Tinseltown and the Lakers are outscoring opponents by an average of 9.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
Oh, and through 71 games, he appeared in 70, the most of anyone on the team.
Given the season the Lakers have had, it's fitting that the year's most durable player be struck down at the most crucial point of the team's campaign.
Los Angeles cannot attribute all its failed endeavors to injuries, but physical trauma has been one of the prevailing motifs behind the squad's crusade.
The Lakers' Big Five (Bryant, Gasol, Howard, Nash and World Peace) has combined to miss 66 games through the first 71 outings. Per NBA.com (subscription required) the five have played just 19 of Los Angeles' first 71 games together, equating to just 26.8 percent.
So will we ever see this convocation healthy?
Of course not. We already knew that.
As the third-oldest team in the NBA, injuries were always going to be a problem for Los Angeles.
Even if World Peace were to return instantly, and the Big Five able to play in every single game to close out the year, they still wouldn't be at "full strength"—not in the conventional sense.
This team is banged up beyond comprehension. We often chide Mike D'Antoni for his short rotation, but while it is a preference of his, he truly has no other option. He's only been gifted what was supposed to be the starting lineup 19 times this season.
And that doesn't even tell the whole story.
I refer to the Lakers' Big Five as the "supposed" starting lineup because injuries (and poor play, but mostly injuries) have prevented them from becoming the actual starting rotation.
Kobe, Pau, Dwight, Nash and Metta have started just seven games together this season.
Seven. Let that sink in.
Of 71 possible games, they've started alongside each other less than 10 percent of the time. When you factor in they've only played 19 total contests together at all, that's still the equivalent of 37 percent.
Was this teamed formed so the five most important players would start simultaneously a third of the time? Or appear in a quarter of games together at all?
I could overwhelm you with advanced statistics that show the Lakers have problems controlling the ball, defending in general and coming to grips with their roles, but I won't, because I've done that already and it borders on useless here.
We castigate the use of small sample sizes, myself included. This whole Lakers' experiment is based off one small sample size.
They've fielded the team they were supposed to boast just 19 times all season long, accounting for just 189 minutes the entire year. We can't draw any statistically worthwhile conclusions about a combine whose most vital components average just 9.9 minutes of court time together. It wouldn't make sense.
What we can do is acknowledge reality. We can accept what's staring us and the Lakers in the face, point-blank style.
When will these Lakers be completely healthy?
This team may persevere. They may maintain their slim playoff lead and clinch a postseason berth (I believe they will). They may even make a serious run.
But they'll never be healthy. Not completely.
Not when their most valuable assets are battered, beaten and bruised to the high heavens.
Not when all the evidence and injury reports suggest otherwise.
And most certainly not when these Lakers continue to spend more time apart, than they do together.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports, 82games.com and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.