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.