|Metta World Peace pleads his case before being ejected by Gary Zielinski. (US Presswire)|
It should, anyway. This was about as cheap as a cheap shot gets.
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That will have nothing to do with it when league disciplinarian Stu Jackson and his staff sit down to review the play Monday at the league office in New York. Here's why World Peace likely will be looking at more than the usual one-game elbowing suspension -- and possibly more than the two games Kobe Bryant got for elbowing Mike Miller in the throat during a game in 2005.
When it comes to flagrant fouls and the resulting suspensions, Jackson and league officials play particular attention to two aspects of the play: windup and follow-through. World Peace is guilty on both counts by a mile. In the course of evidently trying to disguise his intent by thumping his chest with his fists after a dunk in the second quarter of the Lakers' game against Oklahoma City, World Peace clearly raised his elbow, wound up with all his strength, walloped Harden in the side of the head and followed through with gusto.
Speaking of intent, the league also gives weight to that aspect of a flagrant foul, to the extent that it can be reasonably determined. In this case, it's easy. There would be no reason for World Peace to adjust the trajectory of his elbow and rear back with such force unless he was planning to hit somebody -- and hit him hard. Also, if World Peace was simply unaware of his surroundings (which would be contrary to all the video evidence), the normal reaction when almost decapitating someone with a violent elbow chop would be to cringe, pull back, raise your hands to illustrate that you didn't mean it and, oh yeah, check on your fallen prey to see if he was OK.
World Peace did none of this. In fact, he sheepishly pounded his chest another time or two, continuing what appeared to be a premeditated attempt to disguise his intentions.
The other aspect that mitigates in favor of a suspension longer than two games is the fact that this did not occur in the course of a basketball play. World Peace had just scored, and was not trying to box anyone out, block a shot or otherwise influence a live play of any kind.
Trevor Ariza, then with the Rockets, got one game in 2009 for swinging an elbow in frustration at the Raptors' DeMar DeRozan. That was not a basketball play, but Ariza barely made contact.
The Timberwolves' Kevin Love got two games for stomping on the head of the Rockets' Luis Scola as Scola lay prone under the basket after a play in February. So now we're getting somewhere: An unnecessary blow to the head that was not part of a basketball play earned Love a two-game suspension. Had Ariza made contact, he would've gotten two games, too.
World Peace, it would seem, warrants a suspension longer than that -- at least three games, and perhaps more. As insulting and potentially dangerous as it was for Love to step on Scola's head and drive it into the floor, he didn't wind up and swing with full force. World Peace did.
So the collision of all these factors, plus the NBA's renewed emphasis on protecting players from blows to the head with its concussion policy, bodes very poorly for World Peace. What he did was unnecessary, excessive, dangerous and with full force, a windup and a follow-through. The fact that Harden was OK won't matter when Jackson and league officials come up with the length of World Peace's suspension. What if his elbow had connected with Harden's face? It might've been Kermit Washington vs. Rudy Tomjanovich all over again.
And that is what the NBA wants and needs to prevent, which is why I wouldn't oppose or be surprised by a suspension that's at least three games in length. And possibly more than that.
There's no place for that in the NBA, and if a heavy suspension is what it takes to send that message before the playoffs begin, so be it.