BOSTON The NBA didn't have much of a choice.
Ron Artest. Metta World Peace. Beta Globe Destruction. Whatever name he goes by these days.
He's still the same dude that lost control seven-plus years ago and beat up a fan that cost him a season's worth of income, crushed the title hopes of a proud, basketball-rabid fan base in Indiana, and he's been trying to live it down ever since.
Ron Artest -- I know he legally changed it to Metta World Peace, but considering the wicked elbow he delivered to an unsuspecting James Harden, 'world peace' and this guy can not go hand-in-hand anymore -- is in deep trouble.
He knows it. And so does the NBA.
The fact that he leveled Harden is bad in and of itself.
But it's hard to pinpoint which was scarier: Artest hitting Harden and being completely oblivious to it, or him hitting Harden and not giving a damn that he laid out an unsuspecting fellow player, who may not be able to play in the postseason.
There have been plenty who have called for him to be suspended for as long as Harden's out.
That's not enough; not when you're talking about a guy who played a major role in one of the ugliest basketball-related melee's in NBA history.
He should be kicked out of the game. Period.
No return date. No appeal process.
The NBA has to take a firm stand, and now is that opportunity.
When you look at the replay -- and I have countless times -- you can't help but shake your head and wonder, ''What the hell was he thinking?''
And that is part of the problem. He didn't think. Again.
Just like he didn't think about the ramifications of running into the stands at The Palace when he had momentary lapse in common sense that hurt so many people, the least of which was the first person he attacked (who was later determined to be an innocent bystander).
Of course the Los Angeles Lakers will be worst off without him. He can be a productive player.
But then again, nobody felt pity for the Indiana Pacers who are just now starting to cleanse themselves of that sad episode in their franchise's history. They're now one of the best teams in the NBA and could be a sleeper coming out of the East.
But this isn't about the Pacers, or the Lakers.
This is about Artest, who continues to test the patience of common decency with actions that are, in a word, stupid.
Harden has a concussion and will (we hope) eventually recover from it and resume playing sooner rather than later for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But what's to say Artest won't get excited after a big play in the playoffs, or maybe next season, and deliver a similar blow to a player and pull the 'I'm sorry, I didn't know he was there' card?
Nobody will buy it then, and they're certainly not going to buy it now.
Just like the NBA slapped him with an unprecedented suspension following the brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills seven years ago, the league once again must be heavy-handed with their punishment, and send him on his way . . . forever.