Berry Tramel: Metta World Peace's seven-game suspension is stout

OKC Thunder has problems of its own, namely how to survive until James Harden returns.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 24, 2012

The NBA finally ruled on Metta World Chaos. Seven-game suspension for an elbow assault that gave James Harden a brain bruise and the state of Oklahoma a new Public Enemy No. 1.

Whether that's hung, drawn and quartered or merely sent to bed without his supper depends upon your address.

In the Hollywood Hills, they yell foul for too harsh a penalty. In Nichols Hills, they yell not harsh enough. Nothing short of a lifetime banishment would appease the Big Blue mob.

Best to go to the man who always talks straight.

“I think it's fair for what he done,” said the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins, no choir boy himself but also no brain bruiser, so far as I know. “A play that was uncalled for. Could have seriously injured someone.”

Make no mistake. A seven-game suspension is stout.

The Laker cuckoo bird will miss the regular-season finale at Sacramento on Thursday, then Los Angeles' first six playoff games, provided the Lakers last that long.

Don't laugh. Without Chaos, the Lakers' task against Denver or Dallas just got a lot tougher. The Nuggets' Danilo Gallinari is a happy man today, knowing Chaos won't be in his grill should Denver draw LA. And if it's the Mavs, what do the Lakers do when Dallas goes small? Chaos won't be there to guard Dirk Nowitzki.

All of which is interesting to ponder, until you remember that the Thunder has problems of its own.

Forget Chaos. Forget the Thunder's recent slump. Forget matchups. Harden's health is the only story that matters right now in Oklahoma City basketball.

The Thunder looked lost without Harden on Tuesday night. Sort of like the Boomers looked in the fourth quarter against the Lakers. The B team struggled to score, and so did the A team when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook turned cold.

Then Daequan Cook caught fire for the first time in a month and became an inferno, scoring 19 fourth-quarter points to lift the Thunder past the hapless Kings 118-110.

What the Thunder needs is a healthy Harden and Cook shooting like that.

There is reason for optimism about Harden's concussion. He initially was coming back into the Laker game Sunday. He flew home on the team plane after the game. His teammates declare him in good shape.

“He looked good today,” Durant said. “So we'll see.”

It's possible the Thunder slow-played Harden's condition, hoping to draw a stiffer penalty on Chaos.

Think about it. The NBA's worst PR nightmare is a Thunder-Laker series in which Chaos is playing strong and free, while Harden is playing poorly or not at all.

But the Thunder couldn't keep the NBA in the dark about Harden's condition. As part of the league's new concussion program, teams have to consult with its director, Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher.

So the league knows as much about Harden's progress as the Thunder knows.

The Thunder has taken the political road in discussing Chaos' ultimate punishment.

“That's not for us to comment on,” said general manager Sam Presti. “That's the job of the NBA office.”

Presti praised the NBA's concussion policy, which will require Harden to pass a series of tests to return to the court.

“The most important thing is the health of our players,” Presti said. “We want James and all of our players to go on and live healthy lives. Basketball is secondary at this point.”

Maybe so, but I'll bet Thunder chairman Clay Bennett has chewed on David Stern's ears for 48 hours, demanding a pound of flesh for the cheap shot that could have (and still might, who knows?) torpedoed the Thunder season.

If Harden's OK, then seven games seems a solid sentence. If Harden's not OK, the Thunder season soon will end, and Metta World Chaos becomes an even bigger villain in Boomtown.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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