I watched a lot of good sports this week with the hockey post season heading into its second round, soccer greats Real Madrid and Barcelona faced off in a critical league game, and the NBA playoff push ends today with the last day of the season.
There was enough drama in all of that to hold me over for awhile, but little did I know that there would be an incident on the basketball court that would make me forget all about the other drama in the sporting world.
When the Lakers hosted the Thunder on Sunday, I knew I had to see the game because of the playoff atmosphere and what was at stake. The Thunder were in the middle of a race to try and lock down the number one seed in the west, while the Lakers were simply trying to secure dominance in their own building, amidst a division race with the LA Clippers whose home locker rooms are on the other side of their court.
The Thunder were cruising along nicely until about a minute to go in the second quarter when Ron Ar-…Metta World Peace stole the ball at mid-court and dunked on a fast break over Kevin Durant.
After years of rooting for him as a Pacer only to see him self-destruct during the Brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills against Detroit in 2005, it was hard for me to really like him as a player anymore. He, along with Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson, single-handedly set back the Indiana franchise several years with the incident in a year when the Pacers were set to make another title run try.
When he was simply known as Ron, I watched in 2000 when the Pacers made their first appearance in the finals only to be swept by the Lakers in four games. The same Lakers the baller formerly known as “Ron” now plays for. As for Jackson and O’Neal, both made it out ok after the brawl as well with Jackson aiding the top-seeded Spurs this year and O’Neal on the Celtics, albeit in a suit on the sidelines with another season-ending injury.
Despite my bitterness in Artest leaving the Pacers to ashes, I wanted to believe him when he said that he was a changed man. I applauded when people were skeptical the day he auctioned his championship ring for mental health awareness and research. I was almost to the point of healing…
Then he dunked over Durant and James Hardin was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As I heard it said this week in the Twitter world, “Artest should change his name again now to, Metta Face with my Elbow.” That’s exactly what he did, too. MWP clocked Hardin squarely in the back of the head with a meaty bow that left him on the court for several minutes after the incident.
World Peace’s first reaction was to say that it was an accident, that Hardin was simply the casualty of a celebration gone wrong. Hey, who hasn’t gotten clocked in the face after an inadvertent fist pump? I actually believed it in real time. I said out loud to myself, “He didn’t know he was there!”
But when you see the replay, it’s obvious he knew he was there. Did he know it was James Hardin? Maybe not. Rest assured, though, he knew it was a Thunder player. When you watch the replay you can clearly see he rears back and lets it go when he feels someone on his side. No doubt about it. It was a malicious blow. One that could have left Hardin in a worse state than just a concussion. Had it been closer to the temple, Hardin could have been blinded or even put in a coma with the force of the shot.
The seven-game suspension handed down by Commisioner Stern seems too lenient considering it is not his first offense. I would have liked to see a 20-game suspension handed down, but I’m not in charge of such matters.
World Peace stated in an interview after practice yesterday that the elbow was an act of “erratic passion” after the dunk and not malicious intent.
All I have to say about that is, if that’s what Ron Artest, aka Metta World Peace calls erratic passion, I shudder to think what sort of domestic disputes he and Mrs. World Peace might get into during an encounter of erratic anything.
Simply put, it was as shameful a play as you could ever watch in a game of basketball and it will never have a place on the court in my eyes. There’s a fine line between feats of strength and feats of ignorant bullying. World Peace has shown his fair share of that.