ESPN2 commentator Skip Bayless says Oklahoma City Thunder star James Harden is partially to blame for Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Metta World Peace’s hard elbow that left Harden with a concussion during the Thunder-Lakers game Sunday afternoon.
Speaking Monday morning on ESPN2’s “First Take,” Bayless, an Oklahoma City native, said Harden moved into Peace’s path to disrupt his celebration after his dunk in the first half.
Because of the incident, Bayless said he no longer would refer to him as Metta World Peace, but as Ron Artest, his previous name.
“I’m going to give Harden a little bit of the blame here,” Bayless said. “James Harden is known to be a shrewd operator in the NBA already at a young age. He likes to get under the opponent’s skin. He likes to get in Kobe’s face. They got into it in Oklahoma City before the All-Star Game.”
Another “First Take” commentator Wale, a rapper, interrupted, “That’s basketball. That’s competition.”
Bayless: “Clearly James Harden was attempting to disrupt Artest’s chest-pounding celebration at his place, at Staples Center. He just wanted to cut it a little short by getting in front of Artest, just saying stop it. I also think he’s such a shrewd operator that he was hoping that the runaway train that was Artest at that point just might get called for an offensive foul, running over him without looking at him.”
Wale: “You just don’t put yourself in front of Ron Artest and roll the dice.”
Bayless: “Well, he rolled it, baby. Does it justify Artest throwing an elbow? Absolutely not. … But if James Harden had gotten out of the way for one more second and let Artest go by him, we’re not having this conversation.”
Analyst Rob Parker disagreed with Bayless. “It wasn’t contact in a malicious way,” Parker said of Harden. “He didn’t look straight at him or lower his shoulder.”
Melee disputed Bayless’ claim that Harden had a reputation for riling up opponents, calling him a “quiet guy.”
Bayless: “He’s an L.A. guy. He’s from Artesia (High School). He knows how to play the game.”
Bayless said he thought the NBA should suspend Artest for five games, including four playoff games. Parker and Melee said he should be suspended for the entire first round of the playoffs.
“That elbow can not be tolerated,” Parker said. “It is a black eye on the game.”
Bayless recently was criticized on “First Take” by fellow commentator Jalen Rose for overstating his basketball achievement at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City. In a tweet, Bayless said he started on a team that lost in the state finals. According to team statistics, Bayless averaged only 1.4 points a game for the 1970 team and did not score in the 47-42 state championship loss to Norman.