Despite Kobe Bryant‘s ruthless pursuit of victories — which translate this season into simply, “the playoffs” — he can live with an opponent playing just as hard as he. What he can’t stomach is an opponent straying from basketball’s unwritten rules to do so. Case in point, last night in Atlanta. Bryant believes, without a doubt, that Hawks guard Dahntay Jones intentionally didn’t leave him enough room to land on his potentially game-tying jump shot in the game’s final seconds. Jones said today on radio (via ProBasketballTalk) that he was simply trying to contest a fade-away shot by moving closer as Bryant rose up.
I was trying to get him to go where I wanted him to. He pulls up and does a fadeaway and his leg kick I ran into and it made him come down awkwardly. That’s how the play went. But I wasn’t trying to walk up under him. It’s very hard to time somebody’s foot, to walk under someone’s foot and do things of that nature when the game is on the line….
“I just wanted to do my job and just try to contest the shot. It was a fadeaway. When guys shoot fadeaways you’re not just supposed to let them go, you’re supposed to keep playing and try and get as close as possible to be able to challenge the shot.
Bryant won’t likely see the play from Jones’ point of view, so apologizing isn’t going to help Jones’ case in KB’s eyes. In fact, he’s already ushered it into a special level of disdain by comparing it with Jalen Rose’s defense of Bryant in the 2000 NBA Finals. Footage from that play is the second one here. For now, hear how Bryant put it and Rose’s reaction as a now-studio analyst.
Thirteen years earlier, here’s the Game 2 footage, where Rose stuck his foot out to catch Bryant’s left foot as he comes down. (Then-analyst Doug Collins makes the best point in the video: How did Indiana get only a Rose three-pointer out of a 5-on-4 situation, while L.A. got a layup the other way with Bryant still hobbling?) It’s clear Rose takes an extra step to get under Bryant’s foot, and Rose has admitted as much since.
Jones, too, takes another step under Bryant but it doesn’t look malicious.
I would say, “you be the judge” here, but it doesn’t matter for a couple of reasons: Bryant will never change his mind, and the NBA has found Jones retroactively guilty, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan.
NBA expected to send out a release in which it says a foul should have been called and two shots awarded on the Kobe-Dahntay Jones play.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) March 14, 2013
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