Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Artest Suspension

“Metta is going to be the first name and it means like friendship, love and kindness.”
-          Ron Artest on changing his name to Metta World Peace

By now you’ve seen the lowlight the world is talking about.  If you haven’t, take a look and come back.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you.  Now that you’re back I want to mention one thing, first and foremost, before we get into it.  I will not refer to Ron Artest by his ridiculous and public relations fueled name change.  He is and will always be Ron Artest.  You can start calling your trash “diamond”, but in the end, it is still trash.

Let’s start off by saying there was nothing inadvertent or accidental about this elbow thrown to James Harden’s head.  It was clear that before he lifted his left arm in “celebration”, he felt someone next to him.  Artest proceeded to lift his arm higher and throw a blatant high elbow.  I’ve heard some say he was simply celebrating and pounding his chest.  Those people making that claim clearly need to have their eyes examined.  If you check out the initial chest pound by his right arm, you will notice his elbow never goes above his rib area.  At no time does that arm go anywhere close as high.  Why is that?  It’s because it is an unnatural motion.  I’ve celebrated like that on the court, pounding my chest and such.  I’ve never come anywhere close to throwing an elbow that high.  It’s unnatural.  It’s irresponsible.  It’s absolutely dangerous.  Also, if it was really accidental, wouldn’t you stop celebrating the second you connect with an elbow to someone?  Artest, right after hitting Harden, continued skipping down the court until a whistle was blown.  As Harden teammate Serge Ibaka approached Artest, he immediately squared off and was ready for a fight.  Ibaka did not make an aggressive move towards him.  He was simply approaching him, with Pau Gasol standing right in front, asking him what the heck he was doing.  It just shows that no matter what name you call him, Ron Artest will always be Ron Artest.  He’s a guy who, at one time, had great talent but has squandered so much because he is a loose cannon on the court.  Yes, he has achieved quite a bit, but nothing near what he could have if he only had a fraction of the self-control the majority of players in the league have.

The punishment for this heinous on-court act was handed down on Tuesday night.  The NBA handed down a 7 game suspension to Artest.  Let’s review. He is suspended for 7 games for brutally throwing a concussion inducing elbow to head of an opponent.  That is a complete and total joke.  How does that, in any way, give Ron Artest a wake-up call?  Before expanding too much, here is the comment from NBA commissioner David Stern:

"The concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area.  We remain committed to taking necessary measures to protect the safety of NBA players, including the imposition of appropriate penalties for players with a history of on-court altercations."

I hate to break it to the commissioner, but how does 7 games help protect players?  How does a player with a history of violent acts on the court learn if this is all you do?  Let’s really examine the suspended games; the last regular season game against Sacramento.  The Lakers are locked in to the #3 seed in the Western Conference and they have nothing to play for.  It will be a game of rest for the majority of starters, thus a game Artest wouldn’t have been playing any minutes in any way.  He will then miss the first 6 games of the playoffs.  Their first round opponent will be either the Denver Nuggets or the Dallas Mavericks.  Let’s be honest, those are two favorable match-ups for the Lakers.  The Nuggets are a young team that has overachieved this season, given their injuries and youth.  They beat the Nuggets 3-1 in the regular season and will likely do the same in the first round.  The Mavericks were swept 4-0 in the regular season and haven’t looked good this season. They just seem off.  The Lakers should handle either team without much trouble.  Hypothetically, if the series does go long, guess who is back for the all-important game 7?  Yep, Ron Artest.  So really, what punishment was given?  It sure wasn’t monetary.  According to Kenny Smith on TNT, the players are paid based on the regular season and not the playoffs.  Based on that information, Artest will miss one game check, which is something around $80,000.  While that sounds like a lot to you and me, he’s made over six million this season.  It’s essentially like fining me $20 for making a mistake at work.  I don’t make a lot, but I could drop a twenty and not blink.

                I’m sure you are probably wondering, “Since you don’t agree with 7 games, what would you have given him?”  That’s a great question.  I would have suspended him for at least the playoffs, leaving it open ended for further repercussions down the road.  It would completely hinge on how far the Lakers went in the playoffs.  If they got eliminated in the first round, that wouldn’t be a big enough punishment.  If they were to win a title, then the suspension would be up.  It would be the entire 2012 NBA Playoffs, regardless of how far the Lakers go.  If it was an early exit, then I’d re-examine how many games into the 2012-13 season he would be out.  While this does seem harsh to some, this is the right thing to do.  Let me explain why it is such a stiff penalty:

-          The largest controversial subject in all of sports right now is concussions and the best way to show the world that you are serious about taking care of players is to actual punish someone who intentionally injured another player.  Whether you like it or not, PR is a part of the story and a stiff penalty sends a message to players and fans.

-          Ron Artest has been suspended 13 times for a total of 111 games in his career.  It is clear and obvious that he is not “getting it”.  He continues to act out.  The NBA gave Artest the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award last year in an attempt to help his image.  How did he thank the league?  By clotheslining JJ Barea in the playoffs.

Let’s also not dance around the elephant in the room.  We have to mention the Malice in the Palace.  If you haven’t read the amazing piece from, I highly encourage you to check it out.  It’s amazing and in-depth.  Ron Artest, regardless of what he has done or said since that fateful night, has to be held to a different standard.  Fair or not, that is the reality of the situation.  He has been on a “no tolerance” policy from the NBA since the 86 games suspension was served back in 2004-05.  He hasn’t been a “model citizen” since he’s been back.  Obviously he hasn’t done anything that extreme again, but he doesn’t have to.  That reputation will stick with him for the rest of his career and his life off the court.  It was the worst night in the history of the league.  That moment was the epitome of an era that pushed people away from the league.  He is the poster child of a league gone wrong, in many peoples’ eyes.  The NBA has done a great job of rehabilitating their image behind the mainstream friendly stars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, etc.  However, the elbow throw and subsequent fight pose, reminded so many about a time where basketball wasn’t as much fun for some.  Now, in the midst of an amazing season, we are stuck reliving the worst moment in NBA history.  We have to talk about how Artest had “turned his life around”, yet under the fa├žade of a good guy, is still the same Ron Artest.

                The NBA got it wrong.  Ron Artest got it wrong.  Artest may attempt to change his name and promote friendship, love and kindness but we are reminded yet again that he has no idea what any of these concepts mean.  Looks like we are reminded that no matter how hard we try, World Peace just can’t be achieved.