World Peace seeing backlash
BY GREG BEACHAM Associated Press
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
4/29/12 at 10:32 AM
Related Story: Harden crucial to Thunder's playoff hopes
LOS ANGELES - The Lakers jersey says World Peace on the back. The player wearing it is still Ron Artest, and he's in trouble again.
Metta World Peace was pounding his chest with his right arm in celebration of a dunk over two opponents Sunday when his left arm suddenly flew out, landing a vicious backward elbow to James Harden's head and dropping the Oklahoma City guard to the hardwood.
Within seconds, the roars of the crowd fell silent as fans watched in disbelief the latest act of violence by a player who changed his name last year to promote peace.
World Peace is likely to be sidelined when the Lakers open the postseason this weekend, and possibly longer. He claims he accidentally clipped Harden while celebrating a dunk, yet given his history as perhaps basketball's most notorious troublemaker since Dennis Rodman, not even his teammates have any idea why he lost control for an inexplicable instant.
"It was unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unintentional elbow," World Peace said. "I hope he's OK."
World Peace undid much of the goodwill created by his notable charity work over the past few years when he knocked atop reserve out of the key late-season game, giving him a concussion.
His upcoming suspension will be just a fraction of the 86-game ban Artest received in November 2004 when he jumped into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills to fight fans, precipitating perhaps the ugliest brawl in North American sports history.
Yet World Peace changed more than his name over the past three years. The former math major from St. John's has devoted much of his free time to charity, even winning the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award last April, primarily for his work in mental health awareness.
While the NBA's top brass watched video of the elbow and debated the length of a suspension Monday, sports fans debated whether to give Peace another chance. Some saw his actions as an ill-timed celebration that accidentally hurt a player standing too close, while others thought the Lakers forward should be suspended indefinitely, perhaps even banned from the NBA for a dangerous lack of impulse control.
Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol (16), of Spain, stands between an official and Oklahoma City Thunder player after Lakers' Metta World Peace (15) was called for a double flagrant foul and ejected from the game in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday in Los Angeles. REED SAXON / AP Photo