Metta World Peace: Lakers Star Should Get Small Suspension After Sincere Apology

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29:  Metta World Peace #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles past Royal Ivey #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on March 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Metta World Peace should not face an extended suspension for his elbow to James Harden's head in yesterday's double-overtime victory for the Los Angeles Lakers over the Oklahoma City Thunder. His apology was sincere and should make for a smaller punishment.

In today's world where social media reigns supreme, the critics were out in full force ranting and raving about the old Ron Artest coming back and calling for lengthy suspensions. Lost in all the hoopla was a player who appears to have made an honest mistake.

After throwing down a huge dunk, World Peace turns around and starts to run back toward the defensive end. Imagine how much adrenaline was running through his body at that moment. That was probably his most explosive play in a decade.

So, when Harden steps in front of him to receive the inbound pass, Artest tries to shove him out of the way and his elbow crushed the Thunder swingman's head. It was reckless and deserves a handful of games on the sidelines, but there was no obvious intent to injure Harden.

Throwing the book at him would be perfectly acceptable if there was clear evidence World Peace was attempting the elbow on purpose, but that's simply not the case. He just let his emotions get the better of him in an important game.

The Lakers star, who has been playing with a lot more enthusiasm as of late, said as much after the game, according to Greg Beacham of the Associated Press.

''I got real emotional and excited, and it was unfortunate that James had to get hit with the unintentional elbow,'' said World Peace, who had scored 12 points and played solid defense on Durant. ''I hope he's OK. Oklahoma, they're playing for a championship this year. I apologize to the Thunder and James Harden. It was just unfortunate.''

That's something you wouldn't have heard so quickly from World Peace in his younger years. He rightfully had a poor reputation early in his career due to several incidents, most notably his prominent role in the brawl between the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and fans.

He's truly seemed like a changed man lately, however. It's unfortunate this situation will overshadow all of that progress he's made, especially since it really does seem like emotions were the main reason for it.

With the playoffs right around the corner, a suspension that lasts four or five games should be more than enough. That will force him to miss the last regular season game and a big chunk of Los Angeles' opening-round series.

You can't hold that previous brawl against him because it happened eight years ago. And when you consider the moment when the elbow happened along with his apology, he doesn't deserve more than five games. Anything behind that would be going overboard.

Hopefully the league doesn't rush to judgment and hears World Peace's side of the story, or at least read his post-game comments. He made a mistake and owned up to it. The punishment should fit the crime and nothing more.