Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers

League takes safe middle ground with 7 game World Peace suspension

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In the end, David Stern and the NBA played it down the middle. They played it safe.

Seven games for Metta World Peace’s dangerous elbow to the head of another player, one that left James Harden with a concussion. Don’t say mild concussion — there are no mild brain bruises.

Seven games is safe, defensible.

Seven games is not the “out for the rest of the season” that some wanted to see. However, that would have been unprecedented and out of line with past punishments — Andrew Bynum got five games last season for a dangerous forearm shiver on an airborn J.J. Barea as the Lakers were being eliminated for the playoffs. Elbows normally draw one or two games. If you think Artest should be gone for the season you think the league needs to be tougher and harsher in general on these fouls. But to do it in this case would have set a new precedent and the league wouldn’t go there.

However, this was a dangerous play that deserved more than just a game or two. This was not a basketball play — there was no play on the ball, it was as part of a celebration not some kind of game action. Then he squared up willing to fight Serge Ibaka. And there is a history with the former Ron Artest.

Seven was a safe number.

I think it might have been 10 games if these had been regular season games, but because six of those games will fall during the playoffs for the Lakers — where the games mean more — the league took that into consideration. The way he has played of late — 15.9 points per game on nearly 50 percent shooting the last 10 games, and he had 12 before his ejection Sunday — his absence will be felt by the Lakers.

I hope for two things out of this.

First and foremost, for Harden to recover fully and be ready to go in the playoffs.

Second, is for World Peace to be able to move forward from this. People who like to paint the world in simple black-or-white terms miss the growth we have seen from World Peace in recent years. He not only went to see a psychologist, he publicly embraced what it did for him and set up a campaign to help remove that stigma for youth who can use help. He has been a teammate that other Lakers speak well of. He has matured.

He sometimes still acts like a 13-year-old boy — lacking the control, the filters, the thoughts about consequences we expect of adults — but he doesn’t act that way all the time. The days of drinking at halftime are gone. He is growing up. I hope that this incident doesn’t reset people’s images of him completely.

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.