The Mighty Boot of Justice gave Kobe Bryant a swift kick in the ass today: L.A.'s leading chucker received a one-game suspension
for rocking an atomic elbow on Manu Ginobili's dough-like face during the Lakers' 96-94 loss
to the Spurs last sunday.Shock and Awe:
The announcement met with the predictable amount of bewilderment and outrage in Lakerland. In a television interview
, Kobe described himself first as "surprised," then "shocked," and finally "blown away" by the league's punishment. He continuously said the blow was an "unintentional elbow," a simple accident which "happens all the time in basketball."
Of course, coach Phil Jackson immediately contradicted his star player by saying, "When a guy's going up for a shot, he's being contested, you want to draw contact...to draw the foul
So, uh, which is it? Was it completely unintentional, as Kobe claims, or was it done in an effort to draw contact, as Phil explained. I mean, one or the other, guys; choose a story and stick with it.Was there precedent?
Said Kobe: "I haven't seen a precedence for this. There's unintentional elbows that take place in a game all the time."
Actually, there's plenty of precedent. Defenders have been complaining about Bryant's flailing elbows for the last two or three seasons. He split Mike Miller's head like the Red Sea during the 2005-06 season, and we got to watch endless replays of Kobe playing Wack-A-Mole on Raja Bell's face during the first round of the 2006 playoffs. So the league is acutely aware that Kobe likes to throw elbows, both early and often.
He isn't the first "name" player to do this. Guys like Bill Cartwright and Karl Malone used to fling elbows all the time, either while grabbing rebounds or on shot attempts. And yes, those guys -- among others -- were suspended from time to time, particularly if they drew blood or the victim was otherwise injured, as Manu was (cut to gratuitous shot of bloody Ginobili...NOW).Jesus, Manu...where doesn't it hurt?!
There was a little gamesmanshit
on the part of the Spurs, as well. As soon as Kobe's elbow drew blood, Manu was rushed to the Spurs' team trainer, who tended to Ginobili's leaking schnoz in full view of TV cameras and the courtside press corps. The Spurs know that the league is keeping a close eye on things, and they aren't afraid to make an example of a star player now and again to prove a point.Where's the star treatment?
Said Jackson: "I have been a little disappointed with how Kobe has been treated as a premier player." This one little statement goes a long way in explaining Phil's worldview. He is always incredulous if his star players don't get the majority of the whistles. When the Bulls were playing the Pacers in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, Michael Jordan tripped over his own feet while trying to set up for a potentially game-winning shot. Despite the fact that the replays clearly showed that Jordan wasn't fouled, Jackson was livid afterward. In his mind, superstars get those calls...whether they're warranted or not.
Go back and read the recap of any major playoff loss when he was coaching the Bulls or Lakers. He almost always blamed the officiating (unless it was a blowout). And he usually felt like his superstars got stiffed, even if they got 10 to 20 freethrow attempts.
Suck it up, Phil. The bottom line is that your player needs to stop throwing elbows. The league is watching everybody, and they're going to suspend players -- even players named "Kobe" -- when things get to rough. Or, if he's going to keep throwing them because it's "part of the game," then you need to accept the suspensions as part of the game, too.