Lakers await World Peace's fate
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers returned to practice still awaiting word from the NBA league office regarding a potential suspension for starting small forward Metta World Peace, whose violent elbow to the head of Oklahoma City's James Harden in Sunday's Lakers win over the Thunder at Staples Center.
The Lakers have one regular season game remaining, Thursday in Sacramento. The penalty for World Peace is widely expected to last multiple games, extending into the first round of the playoffs and perhaps beyond.
Head coach Mike Brown said he'd spoken to World Peace, who expressed regret for his actions.
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"He said the same thing to me as he did to [the media after Sunday's game]. He said he went up and dunked the ball," Brown said. "He said he was celebrating and as he came down on the floor, he said he hit [Harden] in the head with the elbow. He said it was accidental. Now, is it accidental or not? I don't know. I know he did something and the league reviewed it and the league's gonna come up with a punishment. Should that have happened? No, it shouldn't have happened."
The wait for a ruling from the NBA, Brown said, isn't a big deal.
"They know we don't play until Thursday, so they know they have some time in their minds to get this right, whatever right is in their opinion," Brown said. "So I have no control over whether they come down with the decision today, tomorrow, yesterday or Thursday. I'm like everybody else; I'm just going to sit back and wait."
Kobe Bryant, who said he hadn't really spoken to World Peace about the incident, called the situation unfortunate.
"James, from what I hear, is OK, and that's really the important thing," Bryant said. "Nothing serious happened, and as far as Metta goes, all he has to do now is focus on himself, and however many games they give him, they give him, and he just has to be prepared and when he comes back step right in and be ready to go."
It's a difficult time for the Lakers to lose World Peace. Reserve small forward Matt Barnes suffered a sprained right ankle in Sunday's win, and will not accompany the team for the regular-season finale. Second year forward Devin Ebanks, who played through the fourth quarter and both overtimes against the Thunder Sunday, dropped a weight on his left hand during a workout Tuesday, suffering bruises to his ring and middle fingers.
Brown understands the issues are piling up at an inopportune moment.
"I've been asked three times if I'm concerned if Metta's out. Yes, I'm going to be concerned. I mean, who wouldn't be? Matt's got a sprained ankle. Am I concerned about that? Yeah, I'm concerned about that. Devin dropped a weight on his finger today. Am I concerned about that? Yeah, I'm concerned about that," he said. "[Assistant coach John] Kuester, his mother just passed away and he hasn't been here for a week. Am I concerned about that? Yeah. But what do I do? What I do as a head coach and one of its leaders, hey, we keep marching forward with who we have that can play or that can help us win games and we go win games. I don't think there's anything more than that."
On the season, World Peace is averaging 7.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 39.4 percent shooting, but has been much improved of late, posting 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 47.3 percent from the floor in 13 games this month.