Over the past few years, Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace (aka Ron Artest) has partially rehabilitated his reputation with various charitable endeavors, winning the 2011 NBA Citizenship Award, and generally seeming like a less volatile presence both on the court and in his life. In most cases, he seems far different from the man who helped set off the "Malice in the Palace" brawl in Detroit eight years ago.
During Sunday afternoon's Lakers home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, we saw a side of MWP that we haven't encountered in quite some time. With the Lakers down three points in the final minutes of the first half, World Peace executed a really quite excellent Euro step and left-handed dunk in transition. In his excitement, he began celebrating on his way back up the court and bumped into OKC guard (and likely Sixth Man of the Year) James Harden. As Harden moved past him, World Peace elbowed him hard in the side of the head. Harden went to the ground immediately, and Metta was immediately and rightfully ejected from the game.
The entire incident happened very quickly, so much so that it's hard to know exactly what World Peace intended to do. What's apparent is that he felt Harden and responded by swinging an elbow. However, MWP also didn't look over his shoulder to see who it was and seemed to throw his elbow as an impulse rather than with the intention to hit a player in the head. It was reckless and absolutely worthy of the ejection and suspension to come, but the exact intent of the action might be impossible to determine.
Harden was taken to the Thunder locker room immediately, underwent the NBA-mandated concussion tests, and failed to return to the game. It's not yet known if he has an injury that will keep him out of several games, but his absence would be a major blow to the Thunder's championship aspirations. Averaging 16.9 points on just over 10 field-goal attempts per game, Harden has been one of the most effective backcourt scorers in the league this season.
On the other side, World Peace is sure to be suspended for several games, with the exact duration possibly tied to whether or not Harden sustained a serious injury. You can be sure, though, that the NBA will look at this incident based on the reputation of Ron Artest, not that of the more caring and sensitive Metta World Peace. After all the work he put in to improve himself, it's a shame that things turned in so short a period of time.
(Original video via EOB)
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