Metta World Peace didn't expect a seven-game suspension from the NBA and will not contact James Harden because it's important to "stay competitive," the Lakers forward said Wednesday.
World Peace has been in the eye of the sports world since elbowing Harden in the head Sunday in the Lakers' 114-106 victory in double overtime over Oklahoma City. He said his "main concern" was Harden's recovery but acknowledged he hadn't contacted him directly.
"I see James in the summertime sometimes, playing basketball. Through a third party I got wind that he was OK," World Peace said at the Lakers' training facility in his first comments to reporters in three days. "We're probably going to see each other in the playoffs potentially, so I really didn't want to do any direct calls. Stay competitive. But through a friend, they said he was doing OK."
World Peace maintained that elbowing Harden was accidental but acknowledged the impact of the blow he delivered. "Ooooh, it was a brutal elbow," he said. "I saw it [on replay] and I was, like, 'My God,' immediately."
A reporter asked if World Peace "lost it" on the play.
"I didn't lose it. It was bad timing for me. Physically, it was bad timing for Mr. Harden," he said. "Who could write up a left-handed dunk and then all of a sudden somebody's right behind you. It's hard to draw that up and to plan something like that.
"It was just the worst timing for me. The way I'm feeling right now, back to that elite level. It's funny because a lot of guys that were able to guard me early, they have no chance now. They can't guard me. It's just the worst timing for me right now. But I'm happy that James is OK."
Harden sustained a concussion and did not play Tuesday against Sacramento. The Thunder announced that he was cleared to play Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets, but Harden sat out the game.
World Peace dunked three times Sunday and provided some insight into what he felt before being ejected with 1:39 left in the second quarter.
"During that [final] possession there was so much passion," he said. "A lot of people were mistaking me for my Metta World Peace name; when I'm out there on that court, that passion is bottled up.
"I've been feeling really good [lately]. I got that one dunk, which you all hadn't seen that in years. ... I went straight up and I got that first dunk over most of their team. That second one, I got the offensive rebound, bumped Kevin [Durant] out of the way and dunked it.
"The third one on a fastbreak, Kevin had no chance; I bumped him out of the way, went up, dunked and at that point I was just way too emotional. It seems like anger, but there was a lot of passion involved. It was erratic. Erratic fire, erratic passion. It was way too much. It definitely wasn't meant to hit him."
Earlier Wednesday, World Peace said on an iTunes podcast that he "didn't expect to get seven games."
He declined to elaborate on that comment later in the day with reporters. "If I start talking about that, I'm opening up myself for excuses," he said. "I'm not one to give excuses."
NBA Commissioner David Stern said World Peace's past factored into the length of the suspension. He has been suspended 10 times since 2003.
"Obviously, all of those things are considered and 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," Stern said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.
"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."
World Peace will miss the regular-season finale Thursday against Sacramento and the Lakers' next six games. If they are eliminated in the playoffs in four or five games, World Peace will serve the remainder of his suspension to start next season.
"It's going to be tough," Lakers center Andrew Bynum said after practice Wednesday. "He's a defensive stopper for us and he can also wreak havoc on the offensive boards and on the block. We're going to have to find a different way to be effective in that position."
There was an air of sympathy for World Peace from Bynum, who was suspended the first four games this season for body-slamming Jose Barea in last season's playoffs against Dallas.
"It was a wild play [Sunday]," Bynum said. "I've been a victim of that and I lost [some] games."
The game with the Kings is irrelevant to the Lakers in the standings because they are locked into third place in the Western Conference.
They are expected to start Devin Ebanks in World Peace's place at small forward. Matt Barnes will not play Thursday and might miss the start of the playoffs this weekend because of a "serious" sprained right ankle, Coach Mike Brown said.