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Posted at 10:02 AM ET, 04/23/2012

Metta World Peace awaits punishment for throwing an elbow to James Harden’s head

James Harden suffered a concussion when he was struck by Metta World Peace’s elbow. (Reed Saxon / AP)
Metta World Peace left Oklahoma City forward James Harden with a concussion after a violent elbow to the head in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 114-106 double-overtime victory Sunday.

Now, what kind of punishment will the NBA hand down?

World Peace was celebrating after his third dunk late in the first half, jubilantly pounding his chest and then pulling his arm back — and striking Harden above the ear. Harden fell hard to the floor as Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka of the Thunder moved toward World Peace. Other players quickly stepped in and, although World Peace argued that the elbow was inadvertent, he was given a flagrant foul type 2 and ejected. No doubt a significant suspension will follow.

“During that play, I just dunked on Durant and Ibaka. I got real emotional, real excited,” World Peace said (via the LA Times). “It's unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unintentional elbow. I hope he's okay. The Thunder, they're playing for a championship this year. I really hope he's okay and I apologize to the Thunder and to James Harden. It was such a great game. It was unfortunate so much emotion was going on at that time. That's it for today.”

James Harden was flattened by Metta World Peace’s elbow. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)
The Lakers were bracing to be without World Peace for a while, given his history and the league’s new concussion policy. “Probably so,” Kobe Bryant said. “It will be a big blow to us if something like this happens,” Coach Mike Brown said.

World Peace, winner of the NBA’s Citizenship Award last season, has had a checkered career that includes 13 past suspensions for a total of 111 games. He changed his name from Ron Artest last summer and had come a long way from the 86-game suspension he earned after the Malice at the Palace, what Grantland calls “the scariest moment in NBA history.”

He has a habit, though, of drawing springtime ejections. He was tossed and drew a one-game suspension for clothles-lining J.J. Barea in the Western Conference semifinals last year and was ejected from Games 2 and 3 of the 2009 Western Conference semifinals when, playing for the Houston Rockets, he challenged Bryant over an elbow to his throat in Game 2 and a flagrant foul on Pau Gasol in Game 3.

“It was a bad play,” Thunder Coach Scott Brooks said. “There's no way around it. It's a dangerous play. It's not a play that should be involved in basketball. And it's unfortunate it happened. I know Ron, but unfortunately it did happen. You can't do that. That's unacceptable.”

World Peace expressed contrition on Twitter as well as in his postgame statement and Bryant came to his defense. “One play in the heat of the battle all of a sudden changes his perception as a man and as a person?” Bryant said. “All you guys know what a sweet guy he is.”

Perhaps, but doesn’t this foul merit a lengthy suspension?

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