In the first quarter of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers were full of surprises, almost all of them bad. After 21 games, the Lakers were 9-12 and had already replaced coach Mike Brown with Mike D’Antoni. But while Pau Gasol has been disappointing, Dwight Howard’s numbers are down and Steve Nash has been out almost the entire year with a leg fracture, Metta World Peace is putting up his best numbers since joining the Lakers in 2009-10.

After 21 games, World Peace was averaging 12.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 three-pointers per game with a .769 free throw percentage, all significant improvements over his previous Laker highs.

World Peace’s numbers dropped last year

World Peace had just 7.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in 2011-12, a big drop from his production with the Sacramento Kings, where he averaged 20.5 points per game in 2007-8 and 6.5 rebounds per game in 2006-7. He turned 33 in November and appeared to be on the downside of his career. Instead, his production is up and so are his minutes, from 26.9 minutes per game last season to 34.9 per game this season.

Last season, World Peace was treated for a nerve issue in his back and came to training camp overweight. This season, he is healthy and in great shape.

On December 5, World Peace became the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 12,000 points and also have 4,000 rebounds, 1,000 three-pointers and 1,500 steals. He’s in some pretty good company – the others are Reggie Miller, Gary Payton, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd and teammate Kobe Bryant.

The basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest

World Peace was originally known as Ron Artest, but changed his name in 2011. As a member of the Indiana Pacers in 2004, Artest was at the center of the infamous brawl with Detroit Pistons players and fans, during which Artest went into the stands and confronted a fan, then returned to the court and punched another fan. Artest was suspended for the remaining 73 games of the regular season and the Pacers’ 13 playoff games.

Around the time he was getting his name changed in the fall of 2011, World Peace appeared on ABC-TV’s “Dancing With the Stars.” He finished last.

Going forward, the volatile world of the Lakers could affect World Peace’s fantasy basketball numbers positively or negatively. Many players put up great numbers under D’Antoni and World Peace is flourishing so far, but the Lakers’ poor record means that changes could be coming, such as a trade of Gasol. The eventual return of Nash could enable World Peace to flourish further, but it could also change the dynamics of the offense. But as long as World Peace stays healthy, he should continue to succeed in his comeback season.