MINNEAPOLIS — The Los Angeles Lakers’ push for the playoffs just got a whole lot tougher.
Lakers forward Metta World Peace, the team’s best perimeter defender, is scheduled to have surgery on Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He’ll miss a minimum of six weeks, the team announced Wednesday.
That means that even if the Lakers get into the playoffs — they’re in eighth place in the West, just a game ahead of Utah and Dallas for the final spot — he’d be sidelined for at least the first round and probably more.
Losing World Peace, who had been their most durable player, was the latest in a long line of injuries for a team that started the season with championship aspirations but just hasn’t been able to sustain any stretch of health or success. Dwight Howard (back and shoulder), Pau Gasol (foot), Kobe Bryant (ankle, wrist), Steve Nash (knee) and Jordan Hill (hip) have all missed significant time or had to play through injuries this season.
Now add World Peace, who is averaging 12.8 points and 5.1 rebounds and, more importantly, was the one player on the roster who could be counted on to play some tough defense on the opposing swingmen. His physical nature and never-back-down mentality was essential for a team that has often struggled on that end of the floor. Only six teams have allowed more points this season than the Lakers, who were also 15th in opponent’s field goal percentage.