A lot of people are discussing the foul on Derek Fisher and the possibility of an ensuing suspension. But what no one seems to be talking about this morning is whether or not Kobe meant to elbow Artest and I believe it's at least worth another look.
As Kobe Bryant boxed out Ron Artest underneath the rim, both players were fighting for the basketball. There is little question that Artest was draped all over Kobe and an over the back foul on Artest seemed appropriate given the circumstances.
If you watch the replay (here) it does appear that Kobe's elbow strikes Ron Artest in the throat. The decision that needs to be made is this: Was Kobe intentionally throwing the elbow or was it incidental in an attempt to box out Artest?
The reason that the decision of intentional or unintentional is so critical is because of a similar situation that occurred during the Orlando Magic-Philadelphia 76ers playoff matchup during the first round.
Dwight Howard deliberately threw an elbow that connected with the side of Samuel Dalembart's head. Howard was given a technical foul and subsequently suspended from the following game.
The reason for the suspension was explained by NBA's Executive Vice President in charge of basketball operations.
Jackson stated that any player that deliberately threw an elbow at another player above their shoulders warranted a one-game suspension. In Howard's case it was a no brain-er and even Howard himself couldn’t argue the point.
In Kobe's case, it is much more subjective. It's hard to decipher whether or not Kobe was throwing his elbow with the intention of hitting Artest or if it was merely a consequence of playing hard and boxing out.
Artest certainly felt that Kobe meant to make contact and immediately ran over to a referee to try to make his point. When it was clear the ref wasn’t having anything Artest had to say, he walked up to Kobe and got in his face, letting him know he didn’t appreciate the blow to the neck.
Kobe's response was smart and he basically threw up his hands to say to the refs, "Hey, I'm not doing anything here."
Watching the play live, it didn’t even cross my mind that Kobe's elbow was intentional. Live, it looked like Artest was exaggerating when he flew back after getting hit, and I assumed he was just trying to draw a foul.
After reviewing the replay in slower motion, an argument can certainly be made that Kobe threw his elbow up in the direction of Artest's face on purpose, hitting him in the neck, which sent Ron stumbling backwards.
Because this case is slightly different than the Dwight Howard situation in that it is not clear-cut whether or not the elbow was intentional, I doubt the league will hand down a suspension to Kobe.
I'm sure this will send the Rocket fans into a frenzy, claiming the NBA is coddling Kobe and want to ensure that the Lakers win the series.
And in turn, the Laker fans will be outraged at anyone who even thinks the elbow was deliberate.
The truth is, this isn't the first time Kobe has been called out for wildly throwing an extremity on purpose, which is why I believe the league needs to seriously take a long look at this replay and decide what should be done.
If Jackson believes Kobe threw the elbow with intent, under the letter of the law it's only fair he suffer the same consequence as Dwight Howard and sit out a game.