Metta World Peace will likely miss the entire first round of the playoffs thanks to the seven game suspension handed down by the NBA after he elbowed Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head.
The suspension covers the season finale on Thursday at Sacramento, and then will cover the Lakers next six games, some of which will be playoff games. The Lakers have clinched the third seed and will take on either Denver or Dallas in the opening round of the playoffs.
The loss of World Peace will undoubtedly hurt the Lakers in the first round, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Though he is aging, and is not the player he once was, World Peace is a dominant force on the defensive side of the ball for L.A.
The loss hurts more if the Lakers eventual opponent is Dallas. Shawn Marion is exactly the type of player that World Peace excels at neutralizing. Now Matt Barnes or Kobe Bryant will be called on to defend Marion.
Though World Peace is having his worst offensive season of his 15 year career, averaging just 7.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game; he is still pulling in 1.1 steal and 0.6 blocks per game.
Though the Lakers can probably get out of the first round without the help of World Peace, this is the latest in a season of distractions for Los Angeles.
Bryant has been injured, Pau Gasol has been the subject of numerous trade rumors, reigning sixth man of the year Lamar Odom was shipped out of town, the Zen Master Phil Jackson has retired, and Andrew Bynum has regressed in maturity while developing incredibly on the court, yet the Lakers have managed to keep plugging along.
As the distractions mount, the Lakers have managed to keep winning, but it remains to be seen how long they can continue to do so.