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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Two Final Thoughts on Kobe Bryant's Suspension

I don't intend to do a frame by frame analysis of the Kobe Bryant-Manu Ginobili play as if the footage came from the Zapruder film but after seeing the ubiquitous highlight a few more times I noticed something that I did not see before and have not heard anyone else mention: right before Kobe's arm whacks Manu in the face Manu appears to make contact with Kobe's right shoulder. I do not disagree that Kobe's arm movement looks a little "unnatural" but I think that at least part of what Kobe was doing was a combination of trying to fend off Manu's block attempt, trying to draw a foul and reacting to the contact. If you are shooting and someone makes contact with your arm, then your follow through (and the flight of the ball) is going to be altered; think of how much difference it makes if a defender just lightly taps a shooter's elbow--that can be enough to cause an airball and it often goes unnoticed because the official is looking for possible contact at wrist level or above, not by the elbow.

My second thought about this is not about the alleged "crime" but rather about the punishment. The suspension was not handed down until Tuesday, apparently just a few hours before the tip off of the game in question. So the Lakers not only lost their best player but they had to deal with this on very short notice. The NBA should have an appeals process in place whereby if the player appeals then the punishment does not take place until after the appeal is heard. That is what happens in Major League Baseball--except that MLB drags things out so much that even if the player knows that his appeal has no chance he can seemingly time it in such a way that the rejection and subsequent suspension will happen at a relatively more favorable time. The NBA should give 24 or 48 hours for the appeal to be filed, should hear it quickly and then make a quick decision.

The bottom line is that it just would not make sense to intentionally commit a flagrant foul on a defender while you are in the process of trying to make a game winning shot. If the NBA wanted to discipline Kobe for his "unnatural" movement or the extreme nature of the contact, it would make more sense to charge him retroactively with a flagrant foul and assess a fine. If Kobe really becomes a habitual offender in this regard then he would accumulate enough flagrant foul points to get a suspension; meanwhile, this would not have such an adverse immediate affect on the Lakers team as a whole and on the New York fans who missed their one chance a season to see Kobe play. While Kobe's move may seem "unnatural," particularly in slow motion, I don't see how one can conclude that he intentionally hit Manu as opposed to simply fending him off and/or reacting to contact that he felt. Ironically, near the end of the Lakers-Knicks game that Kobe had to sit out there was a similar play but I guess in this instance the movement was deemed "natural."

Suspending someone for a game based on a subjective judgment and then not hearing the appeal until after the suspension has been served just does not seem right. The play in question is a lot different than the ones involving Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett, who each clearly and deliberately threw a punch at another player. Throwing a punch automatically leads to an ejection and a suspension and all of the players know that. Striking a defender in the face with an "unnatural" follow through is a much more subjective call and this is a thin reed upon which to base an immediate suspension.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:09 AM



At Sunday, February 04, 2007 2:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too much control from the league front office upon the on and off the court manners of players isn't a good thing.


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