Commissioner David Stern stopped short of saying that the elbow thrown by Metta World Peace to the head of James Harden that resulted in a seven-game suspension was a deliberate act.
“I believe that it was recklessly thrown,” said Wednesday afternoon during the NBA’s annual pre-playoff conference call with the media. “And I believe that looking at the replays again and again that he should have known that James was up against him. Some would argue that he had to have known. But I can’t be in his mind at that moment or what was overriding what. But the fact was under all the circumstances, it was reckless and dangerous.”
Harden suffered a concussion from the blow that was delivered during the second quarter of Sunday’s Thunder-Lakers game at Staple Center.
Stern added that many factors – including World Peace’s own track record for past incidents – went into his decision on the length of the suspension.
“Obviously all those things are considered,” he said. “In fact, if it had been somebody who got tangled up and threw an errant elbow, would that have been different than this? You bet it would have been…It’s really very serious stuff and it does take into account the fact that the perpetrator is who he is and has the record that he has and this called for in our view a very stiff penalty and we think that seven games, which only includes one regular season game, is such a stiff penalty.”
Stern also said he believes Harden will return to the Thunder lineup in time for the start of the playoffs this weekend.
“We have reason to believe James available for playoffs and hope he will be.” he said. “We very thankful his injury not more serious than it was.”
With the league’s condensed, 66-games-in-124-days regular season concluding with 13 games on Thursday night, Stern touched on a variety of topics and expressed relief that there seemed to be no hangover effect from the long labor lockout:
- “I would just say…the season has gone better than we could have hoped for. Our fan response, everything we do has been terrific, from TV to attendance to social media. Our sponsors are very happy with the way the league has charged back. We’re looking forward to very exciting playoffs.”
- Stern noted the presence of small markets such as Indiana, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Utah in the 2012 playoffs. “To some degree we think the leveling of the playing field in the collective bargaining agreement has something to do with that.”
- The commissioner said he expects finalization of the sale of the New Orleans Hornets to Tom Benson as soon as the Louisiana legislature passes provisions for a new lease at New Orleans Arena. “Hopefully the end of May.”
- He noted there are ongoing discussions between the owners of the Kings and government officials in Sacramento.
- Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said there was discussion about sponsorship logos on team uniforms at the recent Board of Governors meeting. “It was a robust debate among owners, not as much whether to do it, but how those sponsors would be represented aesthetically in terms of position on jerseys and size. I don’t know inevitable.”
- Stern said that due to the condensed schedule, there is a possibility that some teams might have to play back-to-back games in the second round of the playoffs. “I can’t think of anything else any different,” he said. “We think our fans are hungry for playoffs, our network partners are hungry. I can tell you we’re looking forward in same way.”