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Metta World Peace's suspension should've been 10 games

April 24, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • Metta World Peace rears back before elbowing James Harden.
Metta World Peace rears back before elbowing James Harden. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Just like the NBA took their time in deciding Metta World Peace's playoff fate, I also weighed the appropriate punishment. It's hardly a debate that World Peace deserved a lengthy suspension after throwing an elbow that gave Oklahoma City guard James Harden a concussion. It is a debate though on how many games that is worth.

So as the NBA announced World Peace would serve a seven-game suspension beginning Thursday in the Lakers' season-finale against Sacramento, it wasn't as easy to instantly react as it was when World Peace suddenly failed his own name and unleashed an elbow that left Harden on the ground.

The punishment isn't overly lenient. Most NBA players are suspended between one and two games for throwing an elbow. Playoff games bode more importance in regular season games. And it's possible World Peace would miss the entire postseason for this suspension anyway.

The punishment also isn't overly harsh.  World Peace has been suspended for 111 games and was a part of the darkest chapters in NBA history. In 2004, as an Indiana Pacer, Artest went into the Pistons' crowd after beer had been thrown at him and punched a fan, earning himself an 86-game suspension. Even if he's made painstaking efforts in improving his behavior in recent seasons, his suspension in the 2011 NBA playoffs after he clotheslined Jose Barea shows he sometimes struggles with managing his emotions. That reputation could've made his punishment worse. 

But is the punishment fair?

As I look at the NBA guidelines regarding flagrant fouls,  it's clear World Peace's failure to satisfy any of these variables deserves a 10-game suspension.

*Severity of the contact: World Peace delivered a foul so hard that it knocked Harden to the ground and gave him a concussion.

*Whether or not the player was making a legitimate basketball play: No, he wasn't. World Peace had just thrown down his third dunk and he was pounding his chest after the fact before knocking Harden out.

*Whether, on a foul committed with a player's arm or hand, the fouling player wound up and/or followed through after making contact: World Peace is guilty on all fronts here. He cocked back his arm and then followed through with his elbow.

*The potential for injury resulting from contact: This could've been bad. World Peace surely hurt Harden by hitting him above the shoulder. Had Harden turned at a slighter angle, World Peace could've hit his temple and caused more damage.

*The severity of any injury suffered: Harden suffered a concussion. Although he tweeted that he's making progress and participated in some drills during today's shootaround, it remains unclear how long he will sit out. Still, I'm sure the NBA was given some reports on his progress and reacted accordingly.

*The outcome of the contact: A fight didn't break out. But World Peace was ready for one. Rather than act surprised or remorseful, World Peace immediately got in a boxer's stance ready to defend himself against Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. 

Here's another thing not outlined but surely measured: his past. It's unfair to see World Peace's latest foul as wiping away all the good will he built in seeking therapy, raising money for mental health charities and openly talking about those issues. World Peace is also a much more mature man than he was during  the Palace Brawl. Because he has that much history, though, he's had to prove that he wouldn't make another dangerous decision. World Peace didn't do that. 

Instead of fully measuring those variables, the NBA went down the middle and played it safe. The ruling was harsh enough to affect World Peace, but it doesn't really give him a lesson he doesn't already know. The ruling was safe enough not to stray away from league precedents, but doesn't really address the problem on how physically violent some games get. 

The NBA didn't necessarily make a horrible decision on the seven-game punishment. They just could've and should've done more. 


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