Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The elbow heard around the world has been endlessly discussed and written about, and some of the writing has been good and reasoned. I don’t know that I’m the one to interpret a half-second in the heat of battle, but the league has levied a punishment that will last for seven games and punishment and perception are in the eyes of the beholder.

When I was growing up, there was a ten year-old kid who lived across the street in a perfect New England house. Richie Littlehale was my older brother’s buddy, and regarded as one of the coolest smart asses around. He’d sneak cigarettes and lecture on the evils of vegetables. Richie came over for dinner one night and whipped a magnifying glass out of his back pocket, zeroing in on the spaghetti sauce. My mom asked what he was doing. “Looking for trick food” was the reply. This created a lasting impression on all of us, and made future nutritional efforts even thornier.

The seven day suspension is the league equivalent of trick food. It’s supposed to be for the good of the game I guess, but it’s filled with suspicious little bits and pieces that considered on their own, taste like crap. I eventually came to enjoy mushrooms and bell pepper. I’m not expecting to embrace Metta’s absence.

Boiled down to its essence, the most common narrative is an all too familiar speech, “I know you didn’t mean to do it, but it was still wrong.” You probably heard this as a kid from your parents and if you’re a parent, you’ve probably said it to your own kid. It’s used in school, work, sports, relationships. It’s a foundational argument from the most minor slight to courtroom trials. Whether or not there was intent, there was action and it deserves punishment. Because that’s how it works. It’s the quickest, simplest means to an end - corrective measures are necessary.

Throw his ass in jail. Take away the job, the scholarship, the car and sports. Take away dinner and the sleepover and the precious stuffed animal that listens soundlessly to a child’s sobs. Take away the love.

At this point, the howls of protest boil over, That shit has nothing to do with it! We can’t have lawlessness taking over our fine sport - imagine the consequences if the league handed down a lighter sentence. Everybody would try and get away with it. Oh... like after Kevin Love stepped on Luis Scola’s face and got a two game suspension, right?

Well actually no, the face stomping epidemic never happened - because it was Love, not Peace. Chris Mannix takes a swing at the precedent issue, that there is a history and history has to be taken into account. He tosses Metta a charitable bone – all the work and efforts to reform his flawed character have to count for something so he wouldn’t actually ban him for life, just for the entire playoffs. That way, nobody else will go around throwing elbows. Somewhere, Mutombo is laughing.

Where do I actually stand on the issue? I’m not huge on excessive punishment and to be honest, mixed signals are a way of life in this league. Still, I believe in the spirit of compromise. No other thrown elbow has ever resulted in more than a two game suspension, and it’s hard to see malice in the brief moment it took Harden to get up in Peace’s back. Still, give him the max punishment in terms of precedent and double it for good measure – four games.

The Lakers head up to Sacramento for the end of the line. They’ll be playing without Peace obviously, and will also be without the services of Matt Barnes who has a small ligament tear in his right ankle. The team’s third place seed in the west is secure with the Clippers losing to Atlanta, so the game is moot – it would be nice to see Brown rest his starters, although not likely.

The real repercussions take place in the playoffs. The Lakers will face either Denver or Dallas in the first round. They’re both tough matches and the loss of MWP will be real, and it will matter. The discussion isn’t apt to go away any time soon – it’s simply too juicy to ignore, The magnifying glasses are out, and aren’t going back in anybody's pockets, anytime soon.


  1. Deterrence has never worked as a policy, ever, for anything. Well, I take that back. It serves as an inexplicably accepted convention that means, "We basically just want to murder this guy back, but we're not comfortable admitting that, so let's call the death penalty a 'deterrence' to future, hypothetical crime instead."

  2. I agree with all that you say, but I'm disheartened that "Ron" did this in the first place. I still remember McHale clothes lining Rambis. I think this kind of dirty play has no place in the game. I'm angry at MWP for being a cheap shot artist and for hurting the team just when he/we were playing well. Regardless the length of the punishment, it was a selfish act and sours me permanently on his commitment to the team.

  3. Won't the Lakers face either Denver or Dallas? The Lakers locked up the 3 seed - Memphis and the Clippers will play each other in the first round. Nice article though!

  4. When McHale clothesline Rambis, he premeditated. Artest didn't. And by that time, nobody would ever trow himself on other player's body, like Harden does so well and so many times.

    Not defending Ron, just pointing things we don't read too much about.

  5. Matt - thanks for the catch. It was late, I was delusional. Now corrected.

    Magic Phil - then there's the time Phil Jackson threw a backwards elbow and broke Jerry West's nose coming off the floor. West could never quite figure it out - the game was over.

    1. Interesting title. How does John Fante's Ask the Dust relate to MWP's elbow incident?

    2. There's an earthquake scene where Arturo's world is coming down around him with clouds of dust and I thought of how things changed so quickly for Metta, in that brief split second.