The commissioner has spoken. Ron Metta Artest World Peace will sit seven games for his transgressions against the bearded one. As soon as the ruling came down and spread around, there were the natural reactions — not enough, enough or just right.
From a Thunder perspective, it was going to be hard to satisfy the desire for justice. Anything outside of a lifetime ban wasn’t going to quench the anger some Thunder fans were feeling about Artest’s vicious elbow. But was the punishment at least in the ballpark?
1. Seven games: Enough, not enough or just right?
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: I expected 10. Ten would’ve put World Peace’s status for a second round matchup between OKC and the Lakers in question. Ten would’ve been stiff, would’ve been fair and would’ve gotten the point across that you don’t mess with a player’s head. Seven games is a big number, especially when you consider these are playoff games. But Artest is a repeat offender. This is his 10th suspension since 2003. Did you know: Carmelo Anthony got 15 games for his punch-and-run on Mardy Collins. Was MWP’s elbow not as bad as that? There was an opportunity for the league to send a real clear message, but instead, they went the fair route. I can’t gripe about seven, but it feels a little on the low end considering how malicious the elbow was.
Patrick James, Daily Thunder: Not enough for my tastes, but hard to argue with. When you realize that a seven-game suspension is one of the longest the NBA has had in years, and the longest ever for something that didn’t involve drugs or a punch, then it seems harsh enough. But if you combine MWP’s history with the current climate (justifiably) concerning concussions and a highly rated national television audience, a longer suspension wouldn’t have raised too many eyebrows, I don’t think. Anything up to 15 games, assuring MWP wouldn’t play against the Thunder in the playoffs, would have been fine. But seven still sends a message, especially when up to six of them could be playoff games.
Clark Matthews, The Lost Ogle: I would have been okay with a ban that started at a minimum of seven games that also required Metta to get some sort of psychiatric treatment. As it stands, it seems a little light.
Young: Definitely not. I just don’t see how the result of Harden’s injury should potentially lessen the penalty Ron World Peace received. If Harden had been able to return in the second half, does that mean MWP should only get a game or two? If Harden never plays again, does that mean MWP is banned for life? I don’t think the outcome of the crime should influence the action. That elbow was vicious no matter how you slice it. The intent was disgusting. If Harden has a hard head and recovers quickly, that shouldn’t lessen the punishment.
James: Yes and no. The way the world works, at least here, is that the worse off a victim is, the harsher the penalty is. If you’re drunk at a bar and take a swing but miss, the cops probably only give you a ticket for public drunkenness. If you connect, you get a more serious citation. So it makes sense that Harden having to come out of the game, and miss at least once more, would mean the punishment should be more serious. But coming back to MWP’s history again, this is a case when the punishment should be severe just because of the intent. No matter what he says, Artest made the split-second decision to elbow Harden on his way up the court. That’s what the punishment should be for, not for connecting with the neck and head area.
Matthews: No. Even if Harden hadn’t missed any games, the horrendous nature of World Peace’s action deserved a strict penalty.
3. If Harden isn’t healthy for the opening round, will OKC advance?
Young: It’s a scenario that’s an unspoken thing right now among Thunder fans, but you can’t underestimate Harden’s importance. The Thunder quite simply aren’t as good a team without him. Remove the second or third best player off any playoff team and they’re going to have trouble. I think OKC could advance through the first round sans Harden, but it would be a challenge. If the Thunder draw the Mavs, it’ll probably be a challenge anyway, but without Harden, that’s a scary matchup.
James: Not against the Mavericks, but the Thunder would still be a solid bet against the Nuggets or Jazz. The potential of playing the Mavs already has me a little bit nervous for the Thunder, although I doubt the players are quaking in their boots. Sure, Dallas has had a tough go of it during the regular season and is not a threat to win the title again this year. But the Mavericks are a veteran team capable of making noise, and their confidence would go through the roof if they can grab a game in Oklahoma City to start the series. And they have Dirk Nowitzki. The Thunder will need to be at full strength to feel good about going up against Dallas.
Matthews: The Thunder can definitely make it through round one without Harden, but I’d rather not find out. If he missed more than that, though, I’m far more pessimistic.