Sunday night vs. the Thunder, Metta World Peace relapsed and transformed himself back into the Ron Artest fans hated so very much.
Believe it or not, the Lakers miraculously rallied behind Kobe Bryant's usual late-game antics in the final home game of the regular season—mind you, the Lakers were down 18 at one point in the second-half—in a heart-pounding, 114-106 double-overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. But don't be fooled, as this was a bittersweet win to say the least.
Instead of maintaining his "one step forward"-type process, World Peace took 100 steps backward on Sunday night. And with his infamous past, this incident isn't going to blow over easily.
Just before the half, World Peace had stepped his way past multiple Thunder defenders and ended with a vintage Artest left-handed dunk that stunned not only Lakers fans but World Peace himself. As he pounded his chest in celebration, he caught Thunder star James Harden with an ill-advised elbow that could have caused an earthquake.
In one short sequence, we saw the best of vintage Artest with the dunk and the worst of vintage Artest with the uncalled-for and violent aggression.
It was as if we could all hear, "Down goes Harden! Down goes Harden!"
After watching the replay in slow-motion one too many times, it became obvious that Artest—I mean World Peace—had purposely hit Harden with his elbow. With the reputation that World Peace has, it was clear to the referees and everyone that had seen the play that an ejection was in order, and with the severity of the situation, it wouldn't be a surprise if we don't see World Peace for the remainder of the regular season heading into the playoffs.
As World Peace headed to the locker room, hopefully comprehending what he had just done not only to himself, but to the playoff hopes of his teammates, one question came to mind.
Does Metta World Peace deserve to play for the remainder of the season/playoffs?
The man has come so far, and to see him break down in a matter of seconds was not easy to see. But optimism won't be of any help today or tomorrow. World Peace was way out of line, and when a player's safety comes into play, no player should be allowed to play in a sport that has done nothing but give him more chances.
As the buzzer went off to start the second half, everyone's eyes were on James Harden. Lisa Salters calmly came out and reported that he was good to go and that he had passed all baseline tests for a concussion. This sounded great and all at the moment, but it all became irrelevant once Harden headed back into the locker room after experiencing a headache early in the third quarter.
But why did World Peace lose control of actions right now? The Lakers had been playing solid in the later portions of the season, and this was strongly due to the fact that World Peace had been playing like his old self as of late. Now the momentum has come to a halt, and so has the Lakers' chance to compete for another title.
World Peace is in an unwinnable situation, and he would need more than a miracle to come back and play in the playoffs. If World Peace does not come back in time for the playoffs, the Lakers would have a tough time competing even in the first round without his defensive presence and solid outside shooting that he has showcased in recent games. There is no guarantee, especially with World Peace in an unstable mental state, that he will play the way he has in this stretch of good play and that will be the biggest concern heading forward.
We all remember how hard it was for Ron Artest to climb the Palace of Auburn Hills; just imagine how hard it will be for Metta World Peace to reach the top of Beverly Hills. It is a confusing situation for all involved, and all we can do is just wait and see if we will see Ron Artest in these coming weeks or if we will see the Metta World Peace we all love to root for.
This situation will go based on what World Peace decides to do. Hopefully, it will at least be sensible.
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