HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The NBA’s deans of discipline handed down a most appropriate fine for Metta World Peace‘s elbow to James Harden‘s head that caused a concussion and 48 hours of on unnecessary pain and suffering for the game of basketball.
Lakers fans might not feel that way, but if they remove those purple-and-gold-colored glasses for just a minute, they’ll realize that justice was served in this instance.
Unlike some hardliners, we saw no reason for World Peace to suffer through a 10-game suspension or the lifetime ban some were calling for (yes, we’ve read all of your comments and emails on the subject). That would have been excessive, even for a player with as checkered a past as World Peace.
It’s clear the league took into account all of the good deeds he’s done and the way, up until Sunday at least, he’s conducted himself within the lines the past few seasons. NBA Commissioner David Stern could have dropped the hammer on World Peace this time and met with little resistance in the court of public opinion outside of Lakerland.
Unlike World Peace, someone took the time to consider all of the options instead of just reacting in the heat of the moment. Instead of listening to the tide of discontent surrounding this latest act and using his extensive history of running afoul of the league’s code of conduct for all players, someone at the league office decided not to make an example of World Peace when they so easily could have.
Seven games might seem harsh to some, but in this day and age of bounties in the NFL and the like, seven games seems more than appropriate. And the Lakers’ acceptance of the penalty (and their continued support of World Peace) would indicate that they recognize as much and ready to try to move on from this incident.
And to his credit, World Peace did the classy thing and apologized to the Thunder and their fans for what happened on his website. Despite suggestions to the contrary, he is fully aware of what went down and seems genuinely contrite for allowing his emotions to get the best of him yet again. We’re not here to condemn the man for that. In fact, we applaud him for recognizing that and handling himself the right way now.
Some others news, notes and opinions regarding the World Peace mess …
LAKERS ARE LUCKY SUSPENSION WASN’T LONGER
Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times: The Lakers got lucky.
The Lakers got luckier than Harden, the Oklahoma City player who walked into World Peace’s animal rage Sunday afternoon and will wobble into the postseason with a concussion.
The Lakers got luckier than the Thunder, which will have to face World Peace again if the teams meet in the second round of the playoffs. His suspension could end just in time for him to mock them with his presence.
The Lakers got so lucky with the NBA’s announcement Tuesday, it is the conspiracy theorists who will now be thumping their chests and flexing their biceps.
Theory one: The NBA wants the Lakers in the playoffs as long as possible, so it was rigged for World Peace to miss only one meaningless regular-season game and a first-round series with the eminently beatable Denver Nuggets or Dallas Mavericks.
Theory two: The NBA still feels so lousy about stealing Chris Paul from the Lakers backcourt, it owes them one.
While both explanations are absolutely silly, so is the length of this suspension. For the rest of the postseason, everyone outside of this city is going to be wondering why.
What exactly were league officials doing during the two days it took to make this decision? They certainly weren’t watching the videotape, which grows more gruesome with every viewing.
SPORTS WORLD DEMANDS ATHLETES OPERATE ON THIS EDGE
Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register: As much as part of World Peace wants to crusade for mental-health counseling and tell jokes that make everyone smile, another part just wants to be special in the only way he has been made to feel special his whole life.
It is with vivid recollection that I can still see the young Ron Artest defending the young Kobe Bryant on Chicago’s United Center court as no one ever did. Right up on Kobe, even way out on the perimeter, unafraid of any elbow to his face, unworried about the possibility of being blown by.
It was primal, powerful. It was as aggressive as I’ve ever seen anyone be in the NBA.
Where does that come from?
Maybe it comes from inside. Maybe it comes from the Queensbridge Houses, the country’s largest public-housing project. Artest has shared so much of his back story that one could rightly wonder if it came from liquid courage, because he confessed he would drink Hennessy scotch before some Bulls games.
Alcohol, though, would only dilute the purity of him at his best – focused on being fearless even more than being locked in on his man and the ball.
As distasteful as it is to say now, the honest answer is that it’s a model for what we want in our athletes.
Be more aggressive, Steve Blake. Be more aggressive, Andrew Bynum. Definitely be more aggressive, Pau.
For you kids out there, we’ve got a cheerleader chant for you to remember.
It’s the upper hand Artest has always had and given his teams – and it’s why Bryant had that very talk with World Peace earlier this season about reviving that old snarl and roar.
Be more aggressive, Metta World Peace, Bryant said. That’s the edge we need from you if we’re going to win another championship.
STOUT PENALTY DEEMED FAIR IN OKC
Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman: The NBA finally ruled on Metta World Chaos. Seven-game suspension for an elbow assault that gave James Harden a brain bruise and the state of Oklahoma a new Public Enemy No. 1.
Whether that’s hung, drawn and quartered or merely sent to bed without his supper depends upon your address.
In the Hollywood Hills, they yell foul for too harsh a penalty. In Nichols Hills, they yell not harsh enough. Nothing short of a lifetime banishment would appease the Big Blue mob.
Best to go to the man who always talks straight.
“I think it’s fair for what he done,” said the Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins, no choir boy himself but also no brain bruiser, so far as I know. “A play that was uncalled for. Could have seriously injured someone.”
Make no mistake. A seven-game suspension is stout.
The Laker cuckoo bird will miss the regular-season finale at Sacramento on Thursday, then Los Angeles’ first six playoff games, provided the Lakers last that long.
Don’t laugh. Without Chaos, the Lakers’ task against Denver or Dallas just got a lot tougher. The Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari is a happy man today, knowing Chaos won’t be in his grill should Denver draw LA. And if it’s the Mavs, what do the Lakers do when Dallas goes small? Chaos won’t be there to guard Dirk Nowitzki.
PUNISHMENT A NOD TO PROGRESS WORLD PEACE HAS MADE
Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com: Punishment, whether it be in a court of law or in sport, is designed as much to send a message and act as a deterrent as it is to serve as penance for an unlawful act.
But the NBA had two messages to consider when disciplining World Peace: protecting its players from violent acts on the court, particularly those directed at the head, while also taking into account how hard World Peace has worked to rehabilitate himself and his image after his 86-game suspension for his involvement in the infamous brawl in Detroit in 2004.
By suspending him seven games — effectively taking him out of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs — the NBA managed to both underscore how seriously it takes player safety, and give World Peace some credit for the therapeutic work he has done on his emotional issues and his very public work to raise mental health awareness.
Had this incident happened three years ago, before World Peace began to show he had taken his previous disciplinary situations seriously and tried to learn from them, it’s easy to see the NBA acting far more severely with him. He probably would have been suspended for the rest of the year or even longer.
Of course, had it been another player, with no history or disciplinary issues, the suspension might have been far shorter.
All of which explains why the NBA took its time with this. As one executive told me Monday, “They’re not soliciting opinions on this. Everybody in the league already has an opinion. They just have a lot to think about.”
PENALTY LEAVES LAKERS SHORTHANDED
Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: Coach Mike Brown said Tuesday he spoke to World Peace about Sunday’s incident and heard him tell the same story he told reporters in a brief statement after the game, after which he declined to take questions.
“He said he went up and dunked the ball,” Brown said. “He said he was celebrating. As he came down the floor, he said he hit the kid with an elbow. He said it was an accident. Whether it was an accident or not, I don’t know.
“Should that have happened? No, it shouldn’t have happened.”
The absence of World Peace for seven games plus injuries to his backups will leave the Lakers (41-24) short-handed at small forward for the start of the playoffs, which are expected to begin Sunday.
Matt Barnes‘ sprained right ankle is still too sore to allow him to make the trip Thursday to Sacramento, according to a Lakers spokesman. Barnes was hurt on a drive to the basket in the first half of Sunday’s game.
Devin Ebanks bruised the middle and ring fingers on his left hand during a weightlifting mishap Tuesday. He said he dropped a 55-pound weight on his fingers, which were taped as he left the practice facility.
Ebanks said he planned to play with a protective splint on his fingers.
Kobe Bryant could shift from shooting guard to small forward in the absence of World Peace and Barnes, and backup point guard Steve Blake could shift to shooting guard, although Bryant joked the switch would be too much for him.
“I’m too small,” the 6-foot-6 Bryant cracked while chuckling with reporters.
SUSPENSION PUTS LAKERS, WORLD PEACE’S FUTURE IN A BIND
Andy Kamenetzky of ESPNLosAngeles.com: Any way you slice it, Metta’s unavailability makes the Lakers considerably worse, even vulnerable for a first-round exit. At full strength, I’d take the Lakers over Denver or Dallas, the latter in perhaps five games. Without MWP, a series victory remains possible, but that outcome is nonetheless jeopardized. (And on the odd chance Lakers happen to drop to the 4-seed and face the Grizzlies, I’m not terribly confident they can beat Memphis with Metta, much less without him.)
Moving forward, I also wonder if this incident could jeopardize MWP’s future in L.A. The Lakers still have their amnesty provision available, and given how the bottom line has greatly influenced trades and roster decisions, it figures the front office will at least consider pulling that trigger to shed salary. The prime candidates are either Blake or MWP. From a pure basketball perspective, assuming Sessions is on the roster next season, Blake is the obvious choice. He’s generally underwhelmed as a Laker and Darius Morris is waiting in the wings, making the veteran potentially expendable. MWP, bouts with inconsistency acknowledged, has vastly outplayed him to boot. However, MWP makes considerably more money. Finances might squeeze Metta under normal circumstances, but when you consider this is the second consecutive season Metta’s temper has yielded a postseason cost, his contract could feel even pricier. Nobody gets into business with MWP expecting Swiss-watch reliability, but it’s reasonable to expect the guy to avoid being a loose cannon, especially during important moments. Using the amnesty clause on MWP could very well have been Plan A anyway, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this incident served as the proverbial “final straw.”
And finally, there’s the element of disappointment. Not even disappointment in World Peace, but rather for him as the failure to control bad impulses threaten to undercut positive steps taken in his life. I’ve expressed on many occasions my admiration for the strides he has made as a person and mental health advocate. Fueled by desire to make a positive mark in the world, he has opened up about the professional help and therapy he has received, lending a public face to an issue often unfairly mired with stigma. MWP’s efforts are important and have helped a lot of people, while in the process rehabilitating a once-radioactive image. This incident unfortunately represents steps backward, a mess that will inevitably overshadow for many his generally good intentions and genuinely good heart.
It’s a shame to see this image rehab hit a snag, but unfortunately that’s the position World Peace has placed himself in. And in the process, the Lakers will feel that pinch.
How much they’ll feel that pinch won’t be known until they hit the floor for the playoffs …