The Los Angeles Lakers’ push for the playoffs just got a whole lot tougher.

Lakers forward Metta World Peace, the team’s best perimeter defender, is scheduled to have surgery today to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He’ll miss a minimum of six weeks, the team announced Wednesday.

That means that even if the Lakers get into the playoffs — they’re in eighth place in the West, just a game ahead of Utah and Dallas for the final spot — he’d be sidelined for at least the first round.

Losing World Peace, who had been their most durable player, was the latest in a long line of injuries for a team that started the season with championship aspirations but just hasn’t been able to sustain any stretch of health or success. Dwight Howard (back and shoulder), Pau Gasol (foot), Kobe Bryant (ankle, wrist), Steve Nash (knee) and Jordan Hill (hip) have all missed significant time or had to play through injuries this season.

Now add World Peace, who is averaging 12.8 points and 5.1 rebounds and, more importantly, was the one player on the roster who could be counted on to play tough defense on the opposing swingmen.

Ex-Bulls center dies

Tom Boerwinkle, the former Chicago Bulls center who had a franchise-record 37 rebounds in a 1970 game against the Phoenix Suns, has died at his home near Chicago after a long illness. He was 67.

The 7-foot Boerwinkle, a native of Independence, Ohio, averaged 11.4 points and 9.2 rebounds at Tennessee, helping the Vols win the 1967 Southeastern Conference title. As a senior in 1967-68, he averaged 15.2 points and 11.3 rebounds.

He was drafted fourth overall in 1968, averaged 7.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 10 seasons with the Bulls from 1968-69 to 1977-78. He was an analyst on the team’s radio broadcasts from 1991-94.

“We were all heartbroken this morning to learn of the passing of Tom Boerwinkle,” said Steve Schanwald, the Bulls’ executive vice president of business operations. “In addition to being one of the Bulls’ all-time great players, Tom was one of the kindest men you would ever want to meet with the gentlest of souls.”

Sacramento wants Kings

Sacramento city officials took their last shot at keeping the Kings in California’s capital by approving a public-private deal to build an 18,500-seat arena and retail center downtown.

The City Council’s approval of the arena was the last step in what has been a full-court press by Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star who has scrambled to assemble a group to buy the team and keep it from bolting to Seattle.

Next week, Johnson will present the plan to an NBA panel. The following week, the NBA Board of Governors will vote on whether the team can be sold and whether it will stay or move to Seattle.