Report: Metta World Peace Could Return as Early as Next Weekend

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2013

Metta World Peace's knee injury was expected to keep him out well into the playoffs, but he is reportedly healing at a miraculous rate and the Lakers forward could be ready to go as early as next weekend.

Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register says that World Peace is running at nearly 100 percent and has already started shooting.

Rather amazingly, @mettaworldpeace (knee) could play one week from today vs. Spurs. Lakers need defense, and ...…

— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) April 7, 2013

Suffering a torn lateral meniscus against the Golden State Warriors on March 25, World Peace underwent successful surgery on his left knee on March 28, with the timetable for recovery set at a minimum of six weeks. That would have put him on track for a May 9 return.

With the playoffs starting on April 20, and the second round starting no later than May 7, that would mean the Lakers would need to make the playoffs and take down either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs in the first round in order to see Metta's return.

Now it seems that he could be back for Friday's game against the Golden State Warriors. More realistically, however, he'll suit up for the Lakers' April 14 matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.

That would give L.A. a complete(ish) team should they end up making the playoffs (they still won't have Jordan Hill, while Steve Nash should be back by that point).

The game in which World Peace was hurt against the Warriors was just the seventh time the Lakers had their optimal starting lineup together for the entire season.

Sure, the quintet of Nash, Kobe Bryant, World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard have lost all seven of those games they were featured starters together, but it's still the best lineup Mike D'Antoni can put on the floor.

Even if they aren't all starting together, World Peace adds an undeniable dynamic to the squad that the Lakers are missing otherwise.

With Bryant having an up-and-down year defensively and a lot of poor perimeter defenders populating their lineup, World Peace is the guy they need to check the ball-handling wingers to keep them from slicing their way into the lane.

At the least, of course, he gives them another layer of depth and, as cheesy as it sounds, he's a true competitor.

With the Lakers in the mindset that World Peace would be out for the remainder of their late-season playoff push, this has to be one of the best possible windfalls for them as they lower their heads for the stretch run.