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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.

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