I don't like Metta World Peace. Never did. I didn't like him when he was calling himself Ron Artest. He always seemed like a jerk, even before his 2004 meltdown in the stands in Auburn Hills, Michigan when his Pacers were playing the Pistons. A buddy of mine was friends with two of his college teammates when he was playing at St. John's in the late 1990s. They had horror stories about him being an egomaniac and a bully, the opposite of his "good guy" media persona. That's when I learned to dislike him.
Right now, I'm on his side. Metta. the LA Lakers' small forward, is getting clobbered by the media and most fans and he's about to be crucified by the NBA with a whopping suspension. OK, he deserves some of the wrath but not all of it. No question, he should be penalized for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head in the second quarter of Sunday's game at Staples Center between the Lakers and the Thunder. But he was penalized--kicked out of that game, which the Lakers won in overtime. Because there was no evil intent, that should have been enough.
Bottom line, it was just an inadvertent elbow blow. Following a thunder dunk and a juvenile, chest-thumping, King Kong imitation, Metta did some elbow swinging. Harden was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got bludgeoned. It was an accident, pure and simple. Clearly Metta didn't intend to hurt or maim Harden, who was knocked woozy and sustained a concussion. The Thunder lists him as day-to-day and probably won't play him in the team's final two games.
What Metta did happens all the time in the NBA. Players are constantly throwing and dodging elbows. On the replays, the hit looks worse than it was, particularly when it's played in slow motion, and it has been, on sports and news shows, over and over and over. But if the elbow hit was unintentional and didn't result in a injury that put Harden out for a long period of time, why all the fuss? Why paint Metta as this reckless, animalistic brute?
The blood-thirsty cries for revenge aren't surprising. Some angry fans say if the elbow had landed a few inches higher, Harden might have been killed or paralyzed. Others are screaming for suspensions as high as ten games. Some say he should be done for the season. Are these people crazy? These over-the-top penalties don't fit the crime. Had the hit been intentional it's an entirely different story. But it wasn't.
Metta is about to get screwed by the NBA. And so are the Lakers. If the penalty is severe and he has to miss a number of playoff games, the Lakers could have a tough time getting out of the first round without a major piece of their offense and their best wing defender.
The NBA is bound to be iinfluenced by the public cries for Metta's blood. The memory of that 2004 mess looms large. Unless I'm guessing wrong, the penalty will be a whooper. Metta may he a jerk but that's another story. This case should be judged on its merits. Metta doesn't deserve what's about to happen.