- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace faced the media on Wednesday for the first time since the NBA announced he would be suspended seven games for striking the Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head with his elbow.
"It was bad timing for me and then, physically, it was bad timing for Mr. Harden," World Peace said after practice was over. "Who can write up a left-hand dunk and then all of the sudden somebody is right behind you? It's hard to draw that up and to plan something like that. It was just the worst timing for me."
World Peace echoed his previous statements expressing apologies to Harden and the Thunder organization, but has not reached out to Harden personally since the elbow incident on Sunday that left Harden with a concussion.
"Through a third party, I got wind that he was OK," World Peace said. "We're probably going to see each other in the playoffs, potentially, so I really didn't want to do any direct calls. Stay competitive. But, through a friend, he said he was doing OK."
He added he has a pre-existing relationship with the L.A.-native Harden from playing pick-up basketball with him during the summer.
World Peace expressed surprise over the severity of his punishment in a new installment of his podcast, "Mettaphorically Speaking: The Ron & Metta Show," released on Wednesday, but avoided commenting on his suspension with reporters after practice.
"If I start talking about that, I'm going to open myself up for excuses and I'm not one to give excuses," World Peace said. "So, it's hard for me to speak about the (amount of) games (I was suspended)."
World Peace took to Twitter on Wednesday to respond to media opinions that he should have received a longer suspension.
"Can magic johnson,jon barry and steven A compare my accidental elbow to the Luis scola face step and the Blake griff take down..?" World Peace tweeted.
"Shaq ,How can u comment on elbows.. What about the punch you threw at brad miller. And the elbows at dikembe and the prizbilla concussion?" World Peace wrote in another tweet.
The tweets were later deleted, but World Peace also posted a blog on his website -- ronartest.com -- that he titled "When Two Powerhouses Collide."
"When two power houses collide there will be player confrontation... At this point it's most important to stay on the floor and not do anything to get ejected," World Peace wrote. "When you get players that are capable of being ejected, that player has to be aware of the opponent trying to get under his skin.... This type of competition makes for great entertainment."
He ended the five-paragraph entry, by saying: "When two power houses collide you will be enthralled by its art form."
World Peace did talk about his reaction to seeing the replay of his elbow to Harden late in the second quarter of the Lakers' eventual 114-106 double-overtime win over the Thunder.
"It was a brutal elbow," World Peace said. "When I seen it, I was like, 'Ugh,' immediately."
NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday the elbow was "recklessly thrown" and World Peace's history absolutely weighed into the suspension.
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."
World Peace maintained he did not know that Harden was behind him when he swung his elbow and that the contact was unintentional. He reminisced about the three dunks he had in the first half leading up to his ejection almost reverently, trying to explain just how excited he was leading up to the moment of the elbow following his third dunk over Kevin Durant.
"Kevin had no chance," World Peace said. "Bumped him out of the way, went up, dunked and at that point, I was just way too emotional. 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. Way too much ...
"It definitely wasn't meant to hit him how I hit him. That's the best way I could describe those sequence of plays and the erratic passion."
Stern was clear that he didn't buy World Peace's explanation that he accidentally struck Harden, who has not been able to return while awaiting clearance after concussion testing.
"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.
When asked by a reporter if he "lost it" at the time of the elbow, World Peace said, "I didn't lose it."
"During that possession there was so much passion and a lot of people are going to mistake the Metta World Peace name," he said. "When I'm out on that court, that passion is bottled up."
World Peace seemed to express almost as much remorse about his own misfortune of having to sit out when he was starting to play his best basketball of the season.
The 13-year veteran is averaging just 7.7 points on 39.4 percent shooting for the season, but had upped those numbers to 14.1 points on 47.3 percent shooting in 13 games in April.
"The way I'm feeling right now, (I am) back to that elite level," World Peace said. "It's funny because a lot of guys that was able to guard me early, they have no chance now. They can't guard me. My game's feeling great. It's just the worst timing for me right now, but I'm happy that James is OK."
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."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
20hMatt Walks, ESPN.com