What Metta World Peace’s 7-Game Suspension Means for the Lakers

Allow me to say, without equivocation, Metta World’s “Peaceful Elbow” was unquestionably excessive. That said, it was an emotional reaction to James Harden (known for posturing and pestering) stepping into his path following a thunderous dunk. Laker supporter or not, I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for World Peace. Whether we think it is fair for the league and viewing public to take MWP’s storied history into account when judging his most recent act is irrelevant. The reality is, our pasts often come back to haunt us. Admittedly, I expected between three and five games
based upon how the league has dealt with other violent acts (this season): Love reverse curb-stomping of Luis Scola or Jason Smith launching Blake Griffin from a plane, which each garnered two-game suspensions. With a majority of the ESPN NBA analysts guessing the suspension would be somewhere near 10 games, I can’t say that I’m entirely shocked by what he received.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, I’m very happy to hear James Harden will reportedly be ready to play once the playoffs begin. Placing aside my competitive tendency, I would prefer Harden fully healthy so the Lakers can battle (and beat) Oklahoma City at full strength. Question is, with Matt Barnes nursing a sprained ankle, will the Lakers be at full strength? As the Lakers head into the post-season, likely to face the sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets (although Dallas still has an outside chance), being without MWP for six games will undoubtedly put them in a tough position.

While everyone is looking past the Nuggets (or Mavs), Denver is precisely one of those playoff opponents you need an aggressive wing-defender against. Denver boasts one of the deeper rosters, chalked full of scoring forwards. While Bryant can certainly help defending Arron Afflalo, the Lakers don’t need him wearing his body down attempting to help guard  bigger players like Al Harrington and Danilo Gallinari. All three players have a knack for not only knocking down the outside shot (each above 35 percent career shooters from beyond the arc), but tend to give the Lakers fits by penetrating and working from the post.

In losing MWP, the Lakers will be without perhaps the most versatile wing defender with his combination of speed and strength. With Barnes nursing a sore ankle, Coach Mike Brown will be forced to call on second-year SF Devin Ebanks to fill the void. Brown seems pleased by the productivity Ebanks has shown since playing extended minutes while replacing Kobe Bryant during his recent injury. Known for juggling his lineups, I won’t be surprised if Coach Brown uses Bryant at the small forward position against certain match-ups. Although Bryant hasn’t played the position with any regularity since 2008, his superior footwork and post-game make for an easy transition.

In a perfect twist of events, if the Lakers were to dispose of the Nuggets by say a 4-2 margin, World Peace would return for the first game of the second round. Unless the Thunder suffer an unexpected loss at the hands of the Mavericks, that would place MWP back and ready for action at Chesapeake Energy Arena (home of the Thunder) in a couple weeks. While Commissioner Stern certainly wouldn’t prefer the circumstances, you can’t tell me he isn’t licking his chops in anticipation of the ratings for that potential series.

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