Metta World Peace ejected for elbowing James Harden: Can L.A. weather his suspension?


James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder lies on the floor after being hit by Metta World Peace #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers as referees separate Thunder and Lakers players at Staples Center on April 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Stephen Dunn/GETTY IMAGES)

Metta World Peace, the Lakers player formerly known as Ron Artest, was ejected from the Lakers’ game against the Oklahoma Thunder after elbowing James Harden in the head. As Cindy Boren reported:

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.”

To some, World Peace’s actions are part of a narrative of overaggressive play which a change in name and team has done little to alter. As LaVar Arrington wrote:

After an athletic play at the rim that resulted in his third dunk of the first half Sunday, Lakers forward Metta World Peace got so excited he started acting like he was in Ludacris’s “Throw Them Bows” video, celebrating so wildly that he struck Oklahoma City forward James Harden above the ear.

Now, it’s his contention that he did not intentionally knock Harden into a state of sleep, and he said he was sorry after the game. Here’s the problem with World Peace’s apology: He has no credibility. As a matter of fact, if an NBA player was in the news for a thrown elbow, I’m sure World Peace would be the name most people would think of and they’d be right.

Okay Ron, Metta — whatever it is you’d like to be called — if you didn’t elbow Harden on purpose, it appeared that you did. It looked like you had been studying Saturday night’s fight between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans: That elbow you threw was nothing short of a MMA elbow.

World Peace has a history of chippy moments, the most notable being “Malice at the Palace,” when he was up in the stands “accidentally” trying to fight fans of the Detroit Pistons. Yes, I said accidentally because his actions on that night in 2004 were as inadvertent as the elbow he threw Sunday night.

World Peace apologized for the elbow on Twitter, but the Lakers may have to wait out a hefty suspension if the NBA hands down a harsh sentence. As Cindy Boren reported:

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 clothes-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.”

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