From Comcast SportsNetEL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Metta World Peace harmed much more than his own tattered reputation when he viciously elbowed Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head.The Los Angeles Lakers troublemaker also deprived his team of his services as their starting small forward and defensive stopper for at least six playoff games while he serves his 10th suspension in the past decade.The NBA suspended World Peace for seven games on Tuesday for the inexplicable blow that gave Harden a concussion, keeping the former Ron Artest sidelined for most of the first postseason round.World Peace was ejected from Sunday's game against the Thunder for striking Oklahoma City's top reserve. He claimed the blow was an accidental, overzealous celebration of a dunk, yet even Kobe Bryant and his Lakers teammates weren't defending his inexplicable actions."It's hard to get into a guy's head and know exactly what happened in that situation," Bryant said. "I haven't really spoken to him about it. You've really got to ask him."World Peace will miss the Lakers' season finale on Thursday at Sacramento and the Lakers' next six games. The playoffs open Saturday, and Los Angeles is likely to be the Western Conference's third seed -- and Oklahoma City is locked into the No. 2 seed, meaning the clubs could meet right after World Peace's suspension ends in the second round.He will lose nearly 348,000 in salary if he serves the entire suspension this year. If the Lakers exit the playoffs swiftly, the remainder of the suspension must be served next season.World Peace still hasn't answered media questions about his actions, but he issued a brief statement on his website, promising to follow up with a podcast."I apologize to the Oklahoma City Thunder fans and the OKC organization," World Peace wrote on ronartest.com. "I look foward (sic) to getting back on the floor with my teammates and competing for the Lakers fans."Commissioner David Stern alluded to Artest's lengthy history of on-court altercations and strange behavior in announcing the penalty in a statement. Although Harden appears to be recovering well, he hasn't been cleared to return to the Thunder."The concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area," Stern said in a statement. "We remain committed to taking necessary measures to protect the safety of NBA players, including the imposition of appropriate penalties for players with a history of on-court altercations."Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team accepted the latest suspension for World Peace, who has two years left on his contract with Los Angeles."His most recent lapse in judgment is not to be condoned or accepted," Kupchak said after praising World Peace as largely a model citizen with the Lakers."His actions could have seriously injured another player, and his absence during this suspension will hurt our team as well," Kupchak added. "While we accept the league's decision, we will be supportive of Metta and try to help him be more professional on the court."The suspension is the third career ban of at least seven games for Artest, whose rap sheet might not fit on a basketball card at this point.He got an 86-game suspension in 2004 -- the longest ban for an on-court incident in NBA history -- for jumping into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the Detroit suburbs to fight fans, and he served a seven-game suspension in 2007 for his no-contest plea on a domestic violence charge.Even before his odd decision to change his name to promote peace last year, he had largely rehabilitated his image during three seasons with the Lakers, winning the NBA's top citizenship award last spring for his charity work in mental-health awareness. Yet World Peace also slammed his forearm into the face of Dallas guard J.J. Barea in the closing minutes of a home playoff loss to the Mavericks last season, earning a one-game postseason suspension.World Peace leveled Harden moments after dunking over Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant in the second quarter of the Lakers' double-overtime victory over the Thunder. While pounding his chest with his right arm, World Peace cocked his elbow and threw it at the back and side of Harden's head.He claimed the elbow was completely accidental in a brief postgame statement, but later acknowledged on Twitter that the blow "looks bad."World Peace didn't speak to the media after the Lakers' practice Tuesday, heading to the locker room at the moment media members entered the gym at the Lakers' training complex. But Bryant acknowledged the obvious problem for the Lakers, who lose a starter and their defensive stopper right before the postseason."It's an unfortunate situation," Bryant said. "James, from what I hear, is OK. As far as Metta goes, he has to focus on himself, and however many games they give him, they give him. He just has to be prepared, and when he comes back, just step right in and be ready to go."Bryant and the Lakers are clearly torn between supporting a teammate and recoiling from World Peace's actions. Harden and Bryant are friends.Almost to a man, the reaction from Oklahoma City was similar.From general manager Sam Presti to coach Scott Brooks to Durant and the players, the Thunder responded that they were more concerned about Harden than the suspension."The league did it. You've got to live with it," Durant said, echoing the sentiments of his coach and GM. "We can move past it now. We're just worried about getting James back in the locker room."Center Kendrick Perkins was the lone exception."Just a play that was uncalled for," he said. "He could have seriously injured somebody, so I do think it was fair. Obviously, they looked at it a few times because it took them a couple days to finally give the suspension."Perkins added that "if he could go back and change the hands of time, he would take that play back.""It's just not good for our league, especially on a national TV game," Perkins said. "That highlight's going to just keep getting played. We don't want to be labeled as that type of league."Brooks wouldn't weigh in on the possibility World Peace could return from suspension for a second-round matchup with the Thunder."I'm not concerned with who we play, as long as we play as hard as we can and play to the best of our abilities," Brooks said. "You can't focus on matchups. You can't focus on individual players."Lakers coach Mike Brown, who professed ignorance of what happened after the game, said he finally viewed a replay and spoke with World Peace about it briefly, but said he didn't attempt an in-depth evaluation of what World Peace was thinking."You're concerned about it," said Brown, an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers when Artest precipitated that infamous brawl in the stands. "He's a starter for us, and he's important to what we do. ... What was going through his mind, I haven't talked to him. What Metta said is he shouldn't have done it. He's got to keep his cool."Brown said World Peace gave him the same explanation of the elbow as an excited accident."What am I supposed to do, call him a liar?" Brown asked. "He said it was accidental. Now was it accidental or not? I don't know."The Lakers will be further depleted in Thursday's finale without Matt Barnes. The Sacramento native and backup swingman is out with a sprained right ankle, but the team is optimistic he'll be back for the playoffs.With World Peace and Barnes both out, second-year pro Devin Ebanks will get more playing time. Ebanks, who should be fine after dropping a 55-pound weight on his hand Tuesday, played extensive minutes against the Thunder, contributing little offensively but making two big defensive plays in the final minute of the second overtime.Bryant realizes the Lakers will miss World Peace, who entered perhaps the best stretch of his up-and-down season when Bryant sat down for seven games to rest his bruised shin earlier this month. World Peace is averaging 7.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while regularly matching up against the opposing team's top scorer."He was playing extremely well," Bryant said. "It happened. When he comes back, he's going to be playing the same way he was playing before he left, if not better. He'll have time off. He'll have a chance to get in even better shape. He might be better when he comes back."
For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.
This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.
He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).
“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”
Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”
The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.
In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.
So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.
“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”
Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.
“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”
Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.
“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”