Metta World Peace impresses

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Metta World Peace will play in the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night, just 12 days after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee that was supposed to sideline him six weeks.

"He won't start, but he'll play," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after Lakers shootaround Tuesday morning. "You always worry about somebody coming back and not knowing what can occur. But we have to get him back. I'm sure he's ready to roll."

Teammates have come up with several nicknames for World Peace in light of his rather miraculous healing process.

Kobe Bryant called him Wolverine on Monday. Chris Duhon was calling him Superman on Tuesday.

Of course, that nickname has previously been applied to Lakers center Dwight Howard.

"I didn't come up with Superman, I won't get upset," Howard said. "I'm happy he's back. I'm happy he's getting healthy. It will be good to have him on the floor."

Forward Earl Clark said he had an inkling World Peace was on target to return much earlier than expected a few days ago.

"I come here to shoot every night. So one day, maybe two days ago, I'm leaving and I see Metta come in and I'm like, 'Are you about to get a workout in?' I don't know if I even should be seeing this," Clark said.

"I don't know if [Lakers trainer Gary Vitti] and them know. But he was in, he was fine. He wasn't limping or nothing. He was just going through his normal routine.

"Metta is just a strong person. I know he takes care of his body. He eats things that I can't pronounce or even look at."

World Peace injured his knee late in the first half of the Lakers' 109-103 loss to the Golden State Warriors on March 25. After the injury he tweeted, "First ever knee injury. Recovery time hopefully is a week and a half." He would later delete the tweet but be right about the recovery time.

"Right after surgery, they were amazed how the swelling didn't even exist off of meniscus surgery," World Peace said after Monday's practice.

"You can play, but the swelling is what keeps you from playing, so when I didn't have any swelling that's why I was pushing to play. I wanted to play three games ago. It was good teamwork with the doctors and training staff. We have to make a push and make a championship run."

World Peace began running last week and shot around with the team Saturday and before Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. He said he was ready to play last Tuesday, when the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks but hadn't been cleared yet by team doctors.

"I don't think you can explain it," D'Antoni said. "But he's done it before in his career. He's either a quick healer or pain does not bother him. It's one or the other. I don't know what it is."

D'Antoni said he didn't know how many minutes World Peace would play Tuesday. He guessed 20, but "that's just a guess. ... It depends on how the game goes."

With World Peace back, the Lakers will be back to a more manageable eight-man rotation.

Point guard Steve Nash is not yet ready to return from hamstring and hip injuries, but D'Antoni said he "feels better today" and was "progressing" but that "it's still doubtful" he'll play Tuesday or Wednesday night, when the Lakers head to Portland for their final back-to-back of the season.

The Lakers have inexplicably failed to sweep any of their back-to-backs this season. But with just five games remaining and a half-game behind Utah for the eighth and final playoff berth, the Lakers basically have to sweep this one to keep their playoff hopes alive.

"If we get in the playoffs, there's no doubt in any of our minds that we can win a championship," Howard said. "It'd be stupid of me to say if we get in the playoffs, we'll be out in the first round. You have to have confidence in our team."

Yes, but what if they don't get in the playoffs?

"We can't think that way," Howard said. "We can't put our minds in a bad place. We have to keep 'em positive, knowing if we come out and win tonight, anything could happen.

"If we focus on the negative things, then we're basically speaking it into existence that we're not going to make it. I'm not going to put that on myself or this team."

Clark was involved in a car accident after the Lakers' morning shootaround Tuesday.

A team spokesman described it as a minor fender bender and said Clark was "fine."