Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, could be suspended for multiple games after a vicious elbow to James Harden's face on Sunday.
World Peace was exuberantly celebrating a dunk during the second quarter of the Lakers-Thunder when he violently swung his left elbow into Harden's head. Harden immediately dropped to the ground and was diagnosed with a concussion after the game.
World Peace was ejected with a flagrant 2 foul but claimed after the game that the attack on Harden was unintentional.
During that play I just dunked on (Kevin) Durant and (Serge) Ibaka and I got really emotional and excited and it was unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unintentional elbow, World Peace said. I hope he's OK. The Thunder, they're playing for a championship this year, so I hope that he's OK and I apologize to the Thunder and to James Harden.
You know, it was such a great game and it was unfortunate so much emotion was going on at that time. ... That's it for today.
The Thunder weren't quite as convinced that it was unintentional.
It was a bad play. There's no way around it, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. It's a dangerous play. It's not a play that should be involved in basketball. It's unfortunate that it happened. I know Ron. Unfortunately it did happen but you can't do that. It's unacceptable.
A flagrant 2 ejection for an elbow typically draws a suspension of one to two games, but the viciousness of the hit and World Peace's reputation in the league - who can forget the infamous Detroit brawl? - could lead to a five-game or more suspension.
The timing of the World Peace elbow has major implications on both the Thunder and Lakers. The Thunder is within striking distance of the San Antonio Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference, but is unlikely to jump them if Harden is out more than a few games.
The Lakers will also suffer without World Peace in the crunch time ahead of the playoffs. The Lakers are currently in third place in the West, but the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies are both within a game-and-a-half of them.