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Back pain almost forced World Peace to retire this summer

Apr 12, 2012, 10:52 AM EDT

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

What would the NBA be like without World Peace? We almost found out.

Back pain slowed then Lakers forward Ron Artest last season — before his name change and before the lockout. But it was a lot worse than he let on and he told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin he considered retirement because of it last summer.

The back pain, specifically affecting his L4 and L5 vertebrae, was also limiting the range of motion in his legs and feet, severely limiting his jumping ability.

“I just thought my body was maybe messed up,” World Peace said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, 15 years is a lot of years. I got two more years on my contract and I could potentially be done….’”

Also, World Peace had still not given up the notion of retirement, telling ESPNLosAngeles.com that he had contacted the National Basketball Players Association about retirement protocol should he not be able to play because of his back or if the Lakers decided to implement their amnesty provision on the three years and approximately $22 million remaining on his contract.

However, he was directed to a nerve specialist and a program was put in place.

The problem is Artest was not a guy who was thinking about conditioning as the lockout dragged on into December — some guys need the team structure to push them and he is one of those guys. World Peace showed up to Lakers camp heavy. He says is just now getting to his ideal playing weight and feeling like his old self.

World Peace has talked a lot about getting healthy this year — he’s focused on a diet that removes processed foods from the menu and he’s working out more — but that’s only possible because the back pain is gone.

Artest could see himself the victim of the Lakers amnesty clause as the front office looks for ways to bring down its massive tax numbers (it’s the same reason a Pau Gasol trade could still happen in the next year). But he says now that retirement is off the table — if he’s not playing with the Laker he will be playing somewhere.

  1. rajbais - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    Ugh!

    Damn you back pain!!!

    You didn’t make it hard enough on him!!!

  2. fpimentel72 - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    I am a laker fan but really dont know why they sign him, he should retire because he is done, bring Odom back.

  3. sellahh - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    In other news: A humongous meteorite almost destroyed the planet of Earth this summer.
    Artest just needs to get his goddamn sh1t together and start being at least a shell of his former Sacramento/Indiana self. Cause right now, he’s not even close to that… well, when you count out Lakers’ last night game against SAS.

  4. therealhtj - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    I don’t understand the point of amnestying MWP at this point, and Kurt your being a local and lifelong Laker fan, I’m a little surprised you’re suggesting it.

    MWP, despite his erratic play, has been productive in spots. Not great, but he’s certainly showed flashes of late. A retirement this year would’ve been welcome – he’d be off the books this year. But the next NBA star who retires with money on his contract will be the first one. Sure, if the Lakers could cut him NFL-style, they’d probably be better served doing it, but amnesty? To what gain?

    They’d still have to replace him, and when focused, he can still be a good defender and hit an occasional shot. So they’d shed some luxury tax? Big deal, they’ll still be well over the cap and in no position to make any moves with or without him on the books. Next year is another year of dollar-for-dollar tax as opposed to 2013-14 when the increases kick in, with especially harsh penalties for repeat offenders like the Lakers. At that point, he’d be an expiring contract an a lot easier to move. I mean, hell, they got rid of Walton fercrissakes, and MWP is better today than that stiff at his best.

    But waste the amnesty on him? That’s a James Dolan move. Work on your proofreading skills Kurt, because your roster management ones are atrocious.

  5. cowboychris5xchamps - Apr 12, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    Back pain or bipolar disorder?!

  6. gbr437 - Apr 12, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    World Peace is one of those players that if he isnt incorporated into the offensive scheme early then he tends to lose focus. But to say he’s not good and needs to retire would be incorrect. MWP is a player that has to feel involved or as if the game is on his shoulders. He usually plays alot harder in those instances. Could the lakers have won ring no#16 without him? Not with the way bryant and gasol were performing in that gm #7 against Boston. I believe it was MWP that came alive and sparked the lakers win in that finale. As i stated before MWP simply needs to be involved and often to keep him focused but then again thats the same issue with most of the players not named KOBE on the LA roster. So should they speak of amnestying them as well?

  7. 00maltliquor - Apr 12, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    Really? Couldn’t tell the way he was ballin’ last night.

    I really hope he doesn’t get amnestied next year. The tone of a lot of people is they think he’s worthless, IMO solely because he isn’t a big time scorer like he was in the past and he puts up enough bricks to build a homeless shelter. But to me he still plays solid defense, which seems to be a lost artform nowadays, and last I checked defense is 1/2 the game and he’s one of the best in that field.

  8. omniusprime - Apr 13, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    Meta World Peace needed Phil Jackson around to remind him he’s playing like he has cement overshoes on, that was a really Zen way to tell the player formerly known as Ron Artest that he was too fat. Obviously Mike Brown has failed at yet another coaching element, knowing when and how to prod players to get in better shape.

    It was good that Kobe was out for a few games and forced Brown to actually come up with offense without him. Kudos to MWP for such an outstanding game against the Spurs! Let’s hope the real MWP is back and will continue to show his stuff as well as the rest of the team. Hey and how about Bynum’s 30 rebound game? Kobe being out may be what helps the Lakers become a team contending for a title instead of a team pretending to watch Kobe win one for them.

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