Only 12 days passed since he had torn cartilage removed from his left knee, and Metta World Peace returned to the court.
World Peace jokingly said he kept having an open dialogue with his knee wondering if he could play through the pain. But by refusing to wear a sleeve on his knee, it remained clear World Peace could do it.
It took exactly one shot for World Peace to show he could still score. It took less than a quarter for him to morph into Ron Artest and draw a double technical. It also took only one game for World Peace to immediately throw out goofy and scratch-heading quotes.
“I’m too sexy for my cat,” World Peace said to explain his reasoning in returning to the court so quickly.
In reality, World Peace return because he had torn cartilage removed from his knee instead of having it repaired. He accelerated his rehab process by asking Lakers trainer Gary Vitti and physical therapist Judy Seto on what he could do in the middle of the Lakers’ week-long trip two weeks ago. World Peace returned so he could help the Lakers make a playoff push.
The Lakers’ 104-96 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center may have only featured him scoring four point on 1 of 3 shooting and one assists in 15 minutes. But it still set a great for a team trying to pour every single ounce of energy to ensure a postseason bid. That’s why Kobe Bryant affectionately described World Peace as “Logan,” the X-Men comic book character known as Wolverine.
“He’s a tough SOB,” Bryant said. “That’s what we’ve been missing. that edginess, that chippiness. He brings a physicality to the game and it’s infectious.”
It didn’t take long for World Peace to show that. With 2:35 left in the first quarter, World Peace started jawing with Hornets forward Xavier Henry and drew a double technical.
“You can’t guard me,” World Peace recalled, saying. “I didn’t want to go out there and prove it because now I’m being selfish and being by myself. So I just got a double tech.”
The play really bore no significance other than a classic example of Metta being Metta. Instead, his mere presence allowed Bryant to play 41 minutes, a relative decrease from the 46.25 minutes he averaged in the previous four contests.
“I saw somebody who didnt play for a couple weeks,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said of World Peace. “But I didn’t see him limping or anything. He’ll get back into it little by little. Whatever he can give us helps. The minutes he gave us were good minutes.”
It wasn’t easy.
World Peace admitted he felt out of shape and even appeared to be favoring his knee early in the second quarter.
“My knee was talking to me,” World Peace tried saying with a straight face. “It told me to keep going. My knee said, ‘You’re doing good Metta.’ My knee calls me Metta. ‘Keep going, keep working and stay ready.’ I asked the knee, ‘Are you all right?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about my knee.’ We bond. I said, ‘It’s kind of sore right now.’ And he said, ‘stop acting like a little wuss and play.’
So World Peace did.
And he will again when the Lakers play tonight against Portland as they hope to build their 1/2 game lead over the Utah Jazz for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot by sweeping a back-to-back set for the first time all season. His presence could provide a huge difference on whether the Lakers have enough energy to reach the finish line.
“I did as much as I can to be ready,” World Peace said. “I did as much as I can. We won the game. I didn’t play the whole game, but I did as much as I can.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org