DALLAS -- The actions of violatile Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace, and the subsequent fallout, has thrown the Western Conference playoff picture into a tizzy.
On Sunday, World Peach clubbed Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden upside the head with a vicious elbow that would have made any NHL player proud. Fortunately, this is the NBA, and such attacks are not tolerated.
Harden suffered a concussion and coud miss some of the Thunder's upcoming first-round playoff games. And the Thunder, who believe they have a serious shot at winning this year's NBA title, are extremely upset about that prospect.
Meanwhile, today the NBA finally took some action and suspended World Peace for seven games. That means the controversial forward will miss Thursday's regular season finale at Sacramento, plus the Lakers' first six playoff games.
Assuming they play six playoff games.
And if the Lakers don't play six playoff games, guess who will get the blame for that flameout?
The loss of Artest means teams that may have wanted to avoid the Lakers in the first round may actually want to play them now. The Lakers are not a very deep team, and to lose a valuable talent such as World Peace will severely weaken them.
Either the Dallas Mavericks or Denver Nuggets will wind up playing the Lakers. And if it's the Mavs, Shawn Marion can exclusivelyguard Kobe Bryant, and 39-year old Jason Kidd won't have to worry about receiving the constant pounding from the bulky World Peace.
At the other end of the spectrum, there's no clue how long Harden will be sidelined. Harden has to go through a battery of NBA-mandated tests before he can play again, and no one knows for sure how long that will take.
But if Harden is unable to play in the first round of the playoffs, that would affect whether the Thunder can get out of the first round.
Thus, by one vicious swing of his left elbow, World Peace severely disturbed the Western Conference playoff picture. For his sake, he better hope the Lakers make it out of the first round.
-- Dwain Price
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