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Bryant Takes One on the Chin From NBA Over Flagrant Foul

Times Staff Writer

Kobe Bryant was suspended by the NBA without pay for two games for flagrantly fouling Memphis guard Mike Miller on Wednesday, an action that cost him $289,943 in lost salary and continued an already arduous week for Bryant and the Lakers.

Bryant, who disagreed with the league’s decision, was called for the foul after elbowing Miller in the chin in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 100-99 overtime loss. Referees called it a flagrant foul I, but the league upgraded it to a flagrant foul II, assessed for “unnecessary and excessive contact.”

Bryant, the NBA’s second-leading scorer, will serve the suspension for a home game Sunday against the Utah Jazz and a road game Tuesday in Utah.

“I’m very surprised,” Bryant said Friday. “Shocked, actually. Very, very surprised. Angry and frustrated. I’ve been hit with a couple of flagrant fouls already this year, hit with a clothesline and no suspensions come of that. And I get two games for this.”

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Laker Coach Phil Jackson said Bryant’s postgame comments probably contributed to the severity of the suspension.

Bryant said after the game that “any player that was going to come down the lane at that particular time, I was going to let them know that they just can’t walk through here.”

He reiterated those remarks Friday.

“What I said is no different than what everybody else says,” Bryant said. “If somebody comes down the lane, you’ve got to hit them. You can’t let them come down the lane, just finger-roll and get up easy baskets.

“Nothing to hurt anybody or anything like that, that’s just basic NBA basketball.”

Miller had thrown a pass just before the foul occurred.

Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak also disagreed with the ruling.

“We understand that the league has a job to do in enforcing disciplinary action, but we disagree with and are disappointed with their ruling,” Kupchak said in a statement.

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Bryant can appeal the fine but not the suspension. He is not allowed to be in the arena for either game, and he spent most of Friday’s practice watching from the sideline as the team prepared for Utah without him. The Lakers, currently 15-14, have lost three consecutive games by a combined nine points.

Miller and Bryant began tussling in the third quarter Wednesday, when a driving Miller elbowed Bryant and caused an inch-long gash near Bryant’s left eye that required three stitches.

Bryant said Friday the league appeared to ignore that play.

“It seems that way,” he said. “I got called for a foul on that? He threw his elbow out and cracked me in the face.”

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Bryant did express remorse for his flagrant foul ... sort of.

“I wish I could go back in time and take that foul back knowing what I know now, getting two games for it,” he said. “No way in my mind did I think it was going to be a suspension or something like that. No way.”

Take it back how?

“I’d just hit him a little softer,” Bryant said.

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The Lakers went 6-8 last season when Bryant sat out because of a severely sprained right ankle.

Lamar Odom, the team’s second-leading scorer, said the Lakers would have to play better defensively without Bryant.

“We can’t rely on our offense to win games. Going to have to play great defense, make free throws,” Odom said.

“I’m not going to sit there and play like how Kobe plays. I can’t do that. I can’t keep that up. I’m not a 30-point scorer. I’m just going to play my game [and], of course, be a little more aggressive on the offensive end, look to get these guys involved.”

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Odom averaged 18.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists last season when Bryant was out with the ankle injury.

Meanwhile, Odom and Bryant provided further details of a tumultuous postgame setting Monday after the 94-91 loss to Washington.

Bryant was livid when Odom was out of place for a play at the end of the game. Bryant ended up losing the ball after getting trapped on the sideline.

Bryant toppled a TV monitor and angrily addressed his teammates, Odom in particular, inside the locker room.

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“Didn’t come close to fighting,” Odom said. “It was just a disagreement on what should have happened at the end of the game.

“That was it. On the bus, we talked. On the plane, talked. It was over.”

Said Bryant: “We’re more than good. That’s my guy.”


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