Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Defense of Metta

I repeat. Metta World Peace got screwed.

The NBA suspended him seven games for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden in the side of the head in the second quarter of the Lakers' Sunday overtime victory at Staples Center. To me, the penalty was too severe, considering it was an unintentional hit. Kicking him out of that game was sufficient. But the way angry fans and media people have been enraged by the hit, Metta is lucky he wasn't lynched. With many calling for him to be banned long-term, even for the rest of the season, he's fortunate to get off with a seven-game suspension. Still, it's a stiffer penalty that he deserves.

Am I blind?  What I see is an accidental hit that's part of an over-exuberant dunk celebration, particularly when you see it in real time. Metta claims he didn't know Harden was there. That's what it looks like to me, but not to many others. They've probably been watching that replay, which is prejudicial. In slow-mo the hit looks more savage than it seems in real time.

The pop psychologists keep weighing in, talking about the wild look in Metta's eyes before the hit, lambasting him for impulse control and anger issues, all but branding him a maniacal psychotic who's a danger on the basketball court.


He's not some crazed nut. Consumed by passion and putting out maximum effort, Metta got overly hyped and elbowed a player who happened to be close by. Some are comparing it to others hits, even in other sports, claiming Metta got off easy. One reader reports that a certain hockey hit, a body check in the head, drew a 25-game suspension.

But, on the other hand, I've seen worse hits in basketball that didn't draw penalties this harsh. For instnace, LA Clipper's high-flying Blake Griffin is constantly being body-checked in mid-air, resulting in dangerous spills, but nothing more than a routine foul. Remember when big Andrew Bynum leveled little Dallas guard J.J. Barea, blasting him with a linebacker-like hit, out of frustration, in a Laker loss in last season's playoffs? For that obviously intentional slam, which could have resulted in a serious injury, Bynum was assessed a five-game suspension, two less than Metta's. Yet, to me, that hit was much more lethal than Metta's..

Some contend that, considering the public cries for a maximum penalty, the NBA, protecting the Lakers, one of its glamour teams, didn't really lower the boom in Metta. They're charging that the league intentionally limited his suspension to the first playoff series, where the Lakers would face either Denver or Dallas, teams they can handle without Metta.

To me, a seven-game suspension was too much. Others argue it wasn't enough. From the Lakers' point of view, they're happy it wasn't worse.

End of chapter one of a controversy that, no doubt,  has long legs.