UPDATE 10:06 pm: Metta World Peace issued his own statement on his Web site (coincidentally named RonArtest.com):
“I apologize to the Oklahoma City Thunder fans and the OKC organization. I look forward to getting back on the floor with my teammates and competing for the Lakers fans.”
7:59 pm: The NBA came down fairly hard on Metta World Peace — not as hard as some had hoped, but more than fellow Laker Andrew Bynum got for laying out J.J. Barea in the playoffs — with a seven game suspension for his deliberate elbow to the head of James Harden of the Thunder Sunday.
The Lakers have one game left in the regular season (Thursday against the Kings) so this means World Peace will sit the first six Lakers playoff games. That likely means the entire first round and could go into the second round if the Lakers advance.
“The concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said. “We remain committed to taking necessary measures to protect the safety of NBA players, including the imposition of appropriate penalties for players with a history of on-court altercations.”
“Metta has for the most part been a model citizen both on and off the court since joining the Lakers,” said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak in a released statement. “Still, his most recent lapse in judgement is not to be condoned or accepted. His actions could have seriously injured another player, and his absence during this suspension will hurt our team as well. While we accept the league’s decision, we will will be supportive of Metta and try to help him be more professional on the court.”
For comparison, Bynum got five games for his hit on J.J. Barea in the playoffs and Delonte West got 10 games for his weapons charges away from the game. The longest recent suspension was to Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for bringing weapons into the Wizards locker room.
Harden has not yet been cleared to play following concussion symptoms and is out for the Thunder Tuesday night. However, he is expected to be able to play in the playoffs starting this weekend.