MINNEAPOLIS — Metta World Peace may just played his last game as a Laker.
An examination Wednesday left the Lakers estimating World Peace will remain sidelined for at least six weeks after having surgery tomorrow to repair the knee.
World Peace definitely won’t play in the rest of their 11 regular-season games over the next three weeks. It remains unclear if World Peace could even appear the postseason either, assuming the Lakers (36-35) make it. They only have a one-game lead over the Utah Jazz (35-36) for the eighth playoff spot.
According to the Lakers’ timetable, World Peace could return as early as May 9, which would either coincide with the tail end of the Western Conference semifinals or the beginning Western Conference Finals. Should the Lakers make the playoffs, they would likely receive an eighth seed and face a top Western Conference contender, such as the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City.
There’s more uncertainty surrounding World Peace’s offseason. His camp has admitted he will explore all options surrounding whether he will exercise his $7.7 million player option to return to the Lakers next season or opt out in hopes of a long-term deal. The Lakers could waive him using the amnesty provision should he exercise his option to stay in hopes of clearing up cap space. If World Peace opts out, the Lakers could decline to sign him to a longer deal for the same reasons.
Nonetheless, World Peace’s absence marks a serious blow to a team already riddled with injuries. His 12.8 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting marks his highest scoring output in four seasons with the Lakers. World Peace’s improved conditioning relative to recent seasons has helped the Lakers play at a relative faster pace than their veteran-laden roster would’ve allowed. Though the Lakers are tied for 24th in total defense (101.2 points per game) and 15th in opponent field-goal percentage (45.4 percent), World Peace’s perimeter defense prevented those numbers from worsening.
Lakers guard Jodie Meeks will start in World Peace’s tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Kobe Bryant will defend more small forwards. It’s possible Earl Clark could have more minutes off the bench at the small forward spot.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org