You've seen the replay a thousand times. You've heard everyone's opinion. You have your own opinion. The NBA took two full days to come up with what they consider an appropriate punishment for the violent in-game actions of one of its most heavily penalized players, finally announcing late yesterday afternoon that the player known as "Metta World Peace" (the former Ron Artest) will be suspended seven games without pay. It is, shockingly, his tenth suspension from the NBA (most notably he served an 86 game suspension in 2004 after the debacle at Auburn Hills).
At first glance the suspension seems stiff. But is it? For a player of his recidivist past, is it near enough? This is the league that banned Roy Tarpley for life because of repeated violations of the league's drug policy. But was Tarpley hurting anyone other than himself? "World Peace" administered a concussive blow to a fellow player and did it during a stop in play. That James Harden has reported that he "feels good" seems counter to the argument.
Personally, I'm disgusted by Artest's actions, and discouraged by the league's slow and, to my mind, soft penalty.
Steve's thoughts after the jump...
There is no correct answer on the length of MWP's suspension. The obvious precedent to me was that it was worse than the worst incident in recent memory, Andrew Bynum's forearm to J.J. Barea, so the suspension needed to be longer. Bynum got a five game suspension, later reduced to four, and Metta got seven. So it passes that test.
Beyond immediate precedent, it's just impossible to know what the league is going to do in situations like this, nor what they should do. You can't compare it to the bad old days; or rather, the NBA should be making a conscious effort to send a stronger message than they once did where these types of incidents are concerned, both because of their clear desire to clean up the game and also because of the additional information available regarding head injuries. You can't compare it to drug suspensions simply because it's apples and oranges, though Raffo does make a good point. It's worth noting that in the 80s, drugs were the plague of the league and the lifetime ban for Tarpley was a message. Hard fouls seem to be becoming a problem, one that Clipper fans are acutely aware of, but I don't think this has become the same type of priority for the league -- yet.
I've seen a fair number of analysts refer to other "elbowing" incidents as having much shorter suspensions associated, but I defy anyone to show me an elbow as dangerous or gratuitous as this one. I've seen people apply the logic that he didn't throw a punch, an action for which the league typically reserves it's harshest judgment. But really, that's absurd. This was so much more violent and dangerous than any punch. As blunt force trauma goes, an elbow is a much more effective weapon than a fist.
The league no doubt struggled with the question of recidivism and likely took into account MWPakaRA's well-publicized attempts to change. How many times did we hear, from Mike Breen, from Jeff Van Gundy, from Mike Wilbon, from Magic Johnson, from everyone, about what a shame this was and how much better he'd been and how far he's come. Which frankly, I don't understand at all.
Have these people watched him play? He has continued to be one of the most volatile and unpredictable players in the league throughout his supposed reformation period on the Lakers. Did he not clothesline J.J. Barea in the playoffs less than a year ago? Just 16 days before he concussed James Harden, he delivered a forearm to Goran Dragic's head that left Dragic woozy, that for some reason escaped notice or punishment of any kind. It's as if everyone expects him to assault someone every game, and when that doesn't happen for a month or so they say "Oh, look at how he's changed." I'm sorry, but his overall history speaks for itself, and anyone who is paying attention knows that his recent on court history is only an improvement when compared to Ron Artest, not when compared to appropriate conduct. He can thank his psychologist all he likes, and his off the court generosity is admirable, but it doesn't alter the fact that other than losing a step, he never much changed on the court.
So while the NBA may have considered his attempts at reform in deciding on a punishment, I my opinion they should not have because he clearly was not reformed in any significant manner.
So sure, for me, the suspension should have been longer. But I'm not surprised at the length. There's no conspiracy here. Just the league trying to deal with a difficult situation. Every one of these plays is unique, and different people see them differently. There is no correct answer and there never will be.
The real question at this point is how is James Harden.