James Harden suffered a collision when he was struck by Metta World Peace’s elbow Sunday. (Reed Saxon / AP)

While the loss for the Los Angeles Lakers, who have one regular-season game left, is significant, depriving the team of its starting small forward and defensive stopper for most of the first round of the playoffs, there’s a sense that they got off lucky. Certainly luckier than Thunder and Harden, who now, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes, “will wobble into the postseason with a concussion. The Lakers got luckier than the [Oklahoma City] 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.”

What was the league’s rationale for giving World Peace his third suspension of at least seven games for unleashing his Ron Artestiness? Perhaps there was a nod to just how far World Peace, who won the league’s citizenship award and has come so far since the “malice in the Palace” and what Dave Zirin calls “a tragedy of someone who spent years finding redemption in his private life, only to lose it in a fraction of a second.”

The NBA wasn’t elaborating beyond a statement issued Tuesday night. “The concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area,” Commissioner David Stern said in a statement. “We remain committed to taking necessary measures to protect the safety of NBA players, including the imposition of appropriate penalties for players with a history of on-court altercations.”

On his website, ronartest.com, World Peace apologized again:

“I hope James Harden is ok. I apologize to the Oklahoma City Thunder fans and the OKC organization. I look foward [sic] to getting back on the floor with my teammates and competing for the Lakers and the Lakers fans.”

World Peace’s teammates were at a loss for words after the suspension was handed down. “It’s hard to get into a guy’s head and know exactly what happened in that situation,” Kobe Bryant said. “I haven’t really spoken to him about it. You’ve really got to ask him.”

The Lakers wrap up the regular season Thursday at Sacramento and are likely to be the Western Conference’s third seed when the playoffs begin Saturday. Oklahoma City is the No. 2 seed, which means that the teams could face each other in the second round — when World Peace’s suspension ends. As for Harden, before he can play again he must pass a battery of tests.

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