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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Kobe Suspended One Game, Lakers Routed by Milwaukee

On Wednesday, Kobe Bryant received his second one game suspension of the season. Bryant's first suspension happened in January after he elbowed Manu Ginobili in the face during the follow through from a jump shot; this time, Bryant's offense took place on a very similar play, with Minnesota's Marko Jaric on the receiving end of Bryant's elbow. The Lakers lost to the Knicks the first time that Bryant was suspended and, not surprisingly, the Milwaukee Bucks blew them out 110-90 this time. Yes, the Lakers are missing several other key players but don't forget that with Bryant on the court they only lost to Phoenix by five and took the Timberwolves to double overtime. Without Bryant, a competitive Laker team instantly becomes a doormat.

What is the deal with Bryant's errant elbows? After the first incident, I wrote , "I've seen the replay several times now and I'm still not sure what to think; looking at the play in slow motion, Kobe's movement does seem a bit "unnatural," to use Stu Jackson's word, but I don't think that it warranted a game suspension--unless the NBA will now suspend players for two games or more every time they deliberately throw a punch." I don't think that Bryant's action in either case is nearly as bad as what Gerald Henderson did to Tyler Hansbrough recently in the North Carolina-Duke game. Trying to block a shot with one's elbow is 100% "unnatural" and dirty and Henderson should have received a lot more than a one game suspension. As for Bryant, I am less disappointed about this suspension than I was about the first one. The first time set a precedent, in my opinion; I cannot recall an NBA player being disciplined so harshly for an apparently inadvertent act but, as Stu Jackson explained, the NBA deemed Bryant's action to be an excessively violent blow to the head, did not believe it to be accidental and is determined to get rid of such plays. NBA Director of Officials Ronnie Nunn reiterated those points on his excellent NBA TV show, "Making the Call with Ronnie Nunn." I think that the NBA should have fined Bryant for the first infraction and said that future such actions would lead to a suspension but so be it--whether Bryant, Phil Jackson or anyone else agreed with Jackson and Nunn, the rules of the game have been clearly stated. No one should be surprised that Bryant was suspended for elbowing Jaric in the wake of the NBA's swift action after the Bryant-Ginobili play. As long as the NBA remains consistent with its rules interpretation and enforcement it is up to the players to adjust their actions accordingly.

Watching Bryant's elbow strike Jaric, I got the impression that it was not 100% on purpose but that it was not 100% accidental, either. I don't believe that he intentionally hit Jaric in the face, but I do think that he can exercise a little more control of where his arm goes; I also think that Ginobili fouled Bryant first before Bryant elbowed him and, although it is hard to tell from the available camera angles, it looks like Jaric may have fouled Bryant first as well. I point that out not to "justify" Bryant's flailing arm but to suggest the possibility that whatever flailing Bryant normally does may have been accentuated by him being hit at the same time. If you shoot the ball and are hit in the head or shoulder while you are flailing you arm then your arm may flail a bit more erratically. I'm not sure that this is what happened--and Stu Jackson clearly does not go along with this view.

Interestingly, Jaric told ESPN's Chris Sheridan that does not think that Bryant hit him on purpose: "I haven't seen the replay, but if you ask me what I thought about the play when it happened, I don't think he did it intentionally, and I don't think players should be suspended for things that happen unintentionally. I think he was trying to draw a foul, and he swung his hand out to make it look dramatic, and he hit me by accident. He apologized right after."

Great offensive players are aggressive and they use their shoulders, elbows and hands to clear space. Bryant tends to flail when he shoots and I think that he does this for two reasons: (1) he may be able to draw a foul; (2) the possibility that he may strike a defender could cause that defender to give a little ground. Now that the NBA has made it crystal clear that this kind of flailing will not be tolerated I trust that Bryant will find a way to create space without elbowing people in the head. If he doesn't, he runs the risk that the next time he pops someone the NBA will suspend him for more than one game. Stu Jackson told Sheridan that he considered suspending Bryant for more than one game after the Jaric hit. Whatever advantage Bryant may be deriving from this maneuver is not worth the risk of being suspended again.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:02 AM



At Thursday, March 08, 2007 1:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Kobe Fan and yeah I do not agree at all, yes it hurts to be on the recieving end of an elbow but I really believe Kobe did not mean to hit him or Manu on purpose and yes I thought he should of been suspended for Manu because Manu was bleeding but this new accident didn't call for a suspension because if this was so intentionally why was both incidents very simular and very alike if Kobe intended to hit him wouldn't there be something strange or different that would make it suspicious but there wasn't, only telling you that this is a regular thing that Kobe trys to do when trying to draw contact on a player who is defending him. Kobe didn't deserve this again and the NBA office sucks and I wonder if they can answer these questions? and Also why would Kobe do this if he knew he would get suspended at a time like this the Lakers need him on court with all the injuries that his team has, so this proves that this was an accident and now since he is a star he has to pay for it. Ya'll can't tell me he did it on purpose to get suspended because it doesn't add up or make any sense.

At Thursday, March 08, 2007 4:15:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Stu Jackson said in reference to the Jaric incident that he is not judging intent but the action itself. So, from that standpoint it does not matter if Kobe did it on purpose or not; this kind of contact is going to result in a suspension--except when LeBron does it to DWade, as happened right after the Kobe-Ginobili play :)

I don't think that Kobe is a dirty player or that he is trying to hurt people but I do think that if he does not change this particular part of his game then he may very well end up with a multiple game suspension at some point.

The first suspension was wrong because I don't think that the NBA has ever suspended someone for this kind of play. After the NBA suspended Kobe, though, he should have realized that if he did it again he would be suspended again. He will have to find a different way to try to draw fouls.

At Friday, March 09, 2007 12:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It does matter if I am a Laker Fan or a Wizard's fan, Kobe or Micheal, the NBA needs to clean up its postion on players flopping and the erratic arms and leg movement to shot the ball when fouled. Kobe and all the NBA players are acting the part to get to the foul line. In addition, why aren't fouls called with 7-5 seconds to play. The excuse to let them play is wrong. Players know that these fouls are not called so they foul. Basketball is a beautiful game played by the most athletic and condiioned players. You destroy the beauty of game when we impose the cureent rules that are creating so much distraction. Ninety percent of players love the game and they are true competitors. They want to win and they will play within the rules. The money is excellent and like all americans, they want to make as much money as the Chief Execute of a major corporation or the secretary/program assistant in the local or federal government.

Finally, I think Kobe is being unfairly treated by the NBA. Watch any game and we will see what I am talking about. I have seen hard blows to the head when players are attempting layups or to dunk the ball, but I have not seen any suspensions. These calls would be less controversial because the intent is to make sure the player does not score, to send a strong message not to drive to the basket.

At Friday, March 09, 2007 3:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

When I said that it "doesn't matter" if Kobe did it on purpose or not I meant that the NBA is regulating action, not intent. So Kobe's defense that he didn't mean to hit Jaric does not matter; the NBA deemed the hit to be too hard. Kobe will have to change his follow through or he will risk being suspended again. Even though he says that this is his natural motion--and he has done this before--I don't think that it will be real difficult for him to change it.

My understanding is that the NBA is looking into making flopping a foul.

It is not true that fouls are not called with 5-7 seconds to play; in the recent G.S.-Wash. game, the officials called a foul with .1 seconds left--and a technical foul on G.S. Coach Don Nelson. Director of Officials Ronnie Nunn has placed a real emphasis on calling the game the same way throughout.


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