Mike D’Antoni not optimistic Metta World Peace returns before end of regular season

MINNEAPOLIS — Once the MRI diagnosis revealed Lakers forward Metta World Peace has a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee, a defeated feeling swept the Lakers.

It left Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni expressing little hope World Peace would return before the end of the regular season.

“I say I’m not optimistic only because it’s a couple weeks,” D’Antoni said. “If it’s bad enough to get it checked, we’ll see what it is once we get it checked, but it’ll be tough.”

The Lakers will find more answers later today once Lakers team doctor Steve Lombardo reexamines World Peace in Los Angeles. But World Peace’s injury sounds serious. The Lakers (36-35) have 11 games remaining, including tonights’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (25-44) at Target Center. The Lakers play their last game against the Houston Rockets on April 15. Considering the Lakers only have a one-game lead over the Utah Jazz (35-36) for the eighth playoff spot, it’s anybody’s guess whether the Lakers will play beyond that.

“It’s been a trying year for a lot of years and not just because of injuries,” D’Antoni said. “That’s what everybody has to go through. We can’t seem to get any traction. Besies that, nobody is feeling sorry for us. We have plenty to win anyway so let’s do what we’re supposed to do, play as hard as we can and see what happens. If we do that, we should be fine.”

World Peace likely won’t be fine.

Former Lakers forward Matt Barnes tore his lateral meniscus in his right knee in the 2010-2011 season, causing him to miss 26 games because of surgery and his subsequent rehab. Former Lakers guard Jordan Farmar had surgery on his torn lateral meniscus in his left knee in the 2008-2009 season, an injury that sidelined him for 18 games.

“It seems like all year when somebody comes out, somebody goes down,” Lakers center Dwight Howard said. “It’s tough. Then to see Metta go down, it hurts.”

Howard wasn’t exaggerating.

World Peace stayed healthy all season before this point and averaged 12.8 points on 40.5 percent shooting per game, his highest scoring output in four seasons with the Lakers. World Peace became the fifth and final Lakers starter to experience a significant injury this season, which has also included Dwight Howard (surgically repaired back, torn labrum in right shoulder), Steve Nash (fractured left leg), Pau Gasol (knee tendinitis, concussion, plantar fascia in right foot) and Kobe Bryant (sprained left ankle). Lakers’ reserves Steve Blake (lower abdominal strain) and Jordan Hill (season-ending left hip injury) also experienced significant injuries.

“That’s how the NBA is,” D’Antoni said. “Other teams don’t care you cant feel sorry for yourself. You regroup and fight on.”

Although they have beaten Minnesota 21 consecutive games, it remains to be seen if the Lakers do that. They have lost three consecutive games, including sub. 500 opponents in the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards.

Even though they have valued World Peace’s defensive presence, the Lakers are tied for 24th in total defense (101.2 points per game) and 15th in opponent field-goal percentage (45.4 percent).

“It’ll be tough to offset it,” Howard said regarding World Peace’s absence. But everybody else has to pick up the slack. That’s the only way we can do it. We just all have to be on a string on defense, communicate, trust each other and have each other pick. We just all have to be together and do it together.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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