Cheap shot? Absolutely.
Punk move? No doubt.
Metta World Peace's deliberate, crushing elbow to the back of James Harden's head, resulting in a concussion for Harden, is indefensible. Unprovoked violence like World Peace's elbow have no place in the NBA. Heck, real elbows like that don't even belong in the WWE.
My point in this column is not to defend what Metta World Peace did, but speculate why he may have done it.
After all, over the past several years Metta World Peace has mellowed faster than Snoop Dogg on April 20th.
With the rage of "Ron Artest" seemingly under control, on-court violence from Metta World Peace is unexpected at this point in his career. So why would Metta World Peace nearly separate James Harden's head from his neck? Here are my explanations as a die-hard Lakers fan and how plausible each of these explanations are:
Explanation #1: Because the Elbow Was "Unintended" and World Peace "Didn't See" Harden
Those are the explanations Metta World Peace gave in the press conference immediately after the game and in one of his post-game Tweets on Sunday. Sorry, Metta, but I am a completely biased Lakers fan and not even I am buying this one.
Explanation #2: Despite the Name Change, He's Still Just Plain Ol' Crazy Ron Artest
That's the easy explanation, right? He's still just a thug? He's still just the psycho who went into the stands during the Malice in the Palace? After all, anybody can change their name to anything they want, but it does not automatically translate into a change in behavior. If Joseph Stalin had changed his name to Harmless Fluffy Kitten it would not erase the fact that that he was a brutal dictator.
The explanation that the former Ron Artest is still, "just a thug" is the knee-jerk answer, but it is not the complete one.
Despite World Peace's troubled past when he went by Ron Artest, he has been a model citizen in the NBA over the last few years. Remember, the guy was given the 2011 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the Pro Basketball Writers Association for his charitable work in the mental health community.
Despite what took place yesterday with James Harden, I believe the behavioral changes in Metta World Peace's life run deeper than just a new last name on his mailbox. His demeanor over the past couple of years demonstrate a person who has changed. The elbow to Harden is inexplicable, but in general, I do not think Metta World Peace is still the "Ron Artest" who was prone to violence. But there is enough of a history here to make me think twice now.
Explanation #3: He Was Sending a Message
The Oklahoma City Thunder are looking like the favorites to emerge from the Western Conference in the upcoming playoffs. They are 46-18 and have two of the most explosive players in the league in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Lakers are gearing up for another playoff run and a post-season clash between the Lakers and Thunder is a strong possibility.
Coming into Sunday's game the Lakers were 0-2 against the Thunder this year, having lost by 15 in February and by nine in March. The Thunder were ready to deliver a message to the Lakers with a third victory on the season, just heading into the playoffs, which would have been this: We own you!
Perhaps Metta World Peace wanted to send a message of his own. Maybe he wanted the Thunder to know this veteran Lakers team still has some fight left. It is possible Metta World Peace wanted to remind the Thunder of which team has the rings. Those explanations are possible, but the loudest message sent by Artest was that he is still unpredictable and volatile, which not a good message for the Lakers going into the playoffs.
Explanation #4: Who Knows?
In the end, this is the most likely explanation. World Peace and Harden do not have a long-running beef with each other that needed to be settled. World Peace has mellowed substantially over the years and seemed to have put his erratic past behind him. The Lakers and Thunder could meet in the playoffs and if World Peace wanted to send a message, it would have been more effective to just help the Lakers pull off a statement win.
Sometimes you just never know what the man is thinking. And sometimes, it doesn't seem like World Peace knows what he is thinking, either.
In the end, there are no easy answers to why Metta World Peace did what he did to James Harden. It was wrong. It was ugly. It was embarrassing. It was unexpected. As a Lakers fan I thought I was done concerning myself with bizarre outbursts from Metta World Peace.
I was wrong.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Lakers fan. More from this author: