NEW YORK (AP) — David Stern said Wednesday the elbow that Metta World Peace used to give James Harden a concussion was “recklessly thrown” and the Los Angeles Lakers forward’s history absolutely weighed into the suspension.
The NBA commissioner suspended World Peace for seven games Tuesday, a penalty that could force him out of the entire first round of the playoffs, for the elbow he delivered to Harden’s head in a game against Oklahoma City on Sunday.
Stern said during a conference call that he took many things into account, including World Peace’s numerous past troubles. World Peace, who changed his name from Ron Artest, received an 86-game suspension in 2004 — the longest ban for an on-court incident in NBA history — for jumping into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the Detroit suburbs to fight fans.
“In fact if it had been somebody that got tangled up and threw an errant elbow, would that have been different than this? You bet it would have been,” Stern said.
“It’s really very serious stuff and it does take in account the fact that the perpetrator is who he is and has the record that he has, and this called for in our view a very stiff penalty and we think that seven games, which only includes one regular-season game, is such a stiff penalty.”
Stern also was clear that he didn’t buy World Peace’s explanation that he accidentally struck Harden, who was cleared to play Wednesday but held out of the Thunder’s season finale.
“I believe that it was recklessly thrown and I believe that in looking at the replays again and again that he should have known that James was up against him, and some would argue that he had to have known,” Stern said.
After a Lakers practice in California on Wednesday, World Peace acknowledged he’d thrown a “brutal” elbow while celebrating after a dunk. He had previously apologized for the hit.
“I was just way too emotional,” he said. “It seemed like anger but it was a lot of passion involved. But it was erratic. It was erratic fire, it was erratic passion. It was way too much.”
Stern was vague and occasionally defensive when asked how he decided on the length of the ban. He called the process “some combination of art and science.”
“We look at the previous penalties, we look at who’s involved in the altercation, we do take into account the seriousness of the injury and a variety of whatever else is in the atmosphere, and then it just becomes my job to decide what it should be,” Stern said.
Stern said he felt that seven games now, knowing only one of them will be in the regular season, was a move severe penalty than if it came during another part of the season.
“I think the seven was larger than some people might have thought just from an elbow, and I think that in many cases people who thought that this was so horrible that it should result in a lifetime ban,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I have to close the door and say, `OK, what is justice here and what’s fairness here,’ and I came up with seven.”