Coming out of Sunday’s showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder, everyone knew that Metta World Peace was going to get suspended. You can’t throw an elbow at someone’s head, lay them out, give them a concussion and walk away with a tap on the knuckles. The punishment was going to be harsh – the only question was exactly how harsh it would be.
Well, on Monday evening, we finally got our answer. In response to Peace’s ridiculous, amazingly random decision to destroy James Harden, the league opted to hand down a seven-game suspension. What does that mean? Essentially, Peace is out for the Lakers’ last regular season game of the year against the Sacramento Kings this Thursday, the entire first round and some portion of the second round. (Presuming L.A. gets to the second round, obviously.)
Seeing as the Thunder and Lakers seem poised to finish No. 2 and No. 3 in the Western Conference, respectively, a second round rematch between these squads is in the cards. And Peace’s return during that showdown will make the proceedings very interesting.
So, back to the original question: is Peace’s suspension fair? By any reasonable person’s measure – yes it’s fair. Anywhere from five to ten games would have been fair. This takes Peace out of the first round of the playoffs, which is a pretty legit punishment, but it keeps him in the mix for the rest of the postseason, so it’s not overkill. It takes into account that the blow was vicious, came at the worst possible time (nationally televised Sunday afternoon game) and that Harden got a concussion as a result, but it also clearly doesn't dismiss that Peace has been on his best behavior over the last few years.
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The fact that the league took two days to think about this before coming down with a decision is 1.) very telling and 2.) pretty great.
All in all, after absolutely, undeniably screwing the Lakers with the Chris Paul situation before the season started – the NBA did right by the squad in this particular case.