Keeping Score

Why A Seven-Game Suspension Is Too Short For World Peace

In handing down a penalty for Metta World Peace's elbow, the NBA had a chance to send a powerful message. It didn't.

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Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder lies on the floor after being elbowed by Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

That elbow deserved more than seven games.

On Tuesday the NBA announced that Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace, the former Ron Artest, would be suspended seven games for his vicious elbow to the head of Oklahoma City’s James Harden during LA’s 114-106 double overtime victory over the Thunder on Sunday. This penalty will surely impact the Lakers’ playoff run: World Peace will miss the last game of the regular season and the first six games of the post-season. So this penalty isn’t exactly a slap on the wrist.

But it’s not an elbow to the head either.

The NHL, for example, just gave Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres a 25-game suspension for for a late hit to the head. Few people cried injustice. And Artest gets a mere seven games? For giving another player a concussion, a serious head injury? For possibly derailing the playoff chances of the Thunder, one of the NBA’s youngest, most exciting teams? (Harden has emerged as an All-Star, and has yet to be cleared to play). (UPDATE: Harden has been cleared to return. But he is being held out of Oklahoma City’s season finale Wednesday night, and the concussion could still have lingering effects. We’ll have to see how Harden responds in the playoffs).

A suspension of double-digit games or longer felt appropriate for this incident. We thought the NBA was set to send a powerful message: stay away from the head, or miss the playoffs. Instead, if the Lakers win the first round series, World Peace will be back for the second round, where the Lakers will likely play the Thunder.

And if Harden is not back, or at less than full strength, for that series, NBA justice would have failed miserably.

(MORE: No More World Peace: How Ron Artest (Again) Marred The NBA)