Metta World Peace and Xavier Henry have words during the Lakers' win… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Metta World Peace beat the forecast for his return by 30 days.
So Lakers fans recognized his toughness or eagerness or recklessness or whatever it was with an ovation when he checked into Tuesday's game against New Orleans. Twelve days had passed since his surgery to remove torn cartilage in his left knee.
Taking to the Internet, World Peace did his own research to determine the fastest anyone had returned from a similar procedure.
"I heard about the surgery . . . I went online," he said. "I read [one] week. I'm like, 'Oh, then I'm the [one] week kind of guy.'"
World Peace couldn't cite his source, and while accuracy on the Internet could be shaky, he seemed satisfied.
"It was documented," he assured reporters.
World Peace had four points in 15 minutes in the Lakers' 104-96 victory over New Orleans. He insisted his six-game absence would have been shorter if the Lakers had let him return sooner.
"If I can help my team, let's do it. Nobody here is trying to go home early, I'll tell you that," he said. "Even if I can come in and give five minutes for somebody — five minutes, 10 minutes, whatever — give Kobe [Bryant] a breather. You know Kobe, he's played through gunshot wounds."
Not quite, but World Peace's point was understood. More or less.
Coach Mike D'Antoni had one reaction when he heard World Peace would return well before the Lakers' initial estimate of six weeks, a timetable recently modified to at least four weeks.
"I just chuckled," D'Antoni said. "That's not normal. I don't think you can explain it. He's either a quick healer or the pain does not bother him."
Earl Clark started Tuesday's game but World Peace entered with 8:57 left in the first quarter after Clark picked up a second foul.
The Lakers were on the road after World Peace's surgery March 28. He started rehabilitating his knee the next day after consulting with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti and head physical therapist Judy Seto.
They initially told him to wait until they returned from the trip.
World Peace's reply? "No, I'm not waiting," he said. "Tell me what to do so I can be ready to play."
He was further encouraged after talking with team doctor Steve Lombardo.
"He was like, 'Your knee is in better shape than every guy I've ever seen,'" World Peace said. "That's what gave me the confidence to come back and play."
Nash still out
Steve Nash missed his fourth game because of hip and hamstring soreness and was doubtful for Wednesday's game against Portland, D'Antoni said.
Nash has missed 28 games this season. He was sidelined for 24 games after sustaining a small fracture in his lower left leg on Oct. 31.
Eric Pincus is a Times correspondent.