Bucks 110, Lakers 90

What I told people after the NBA suspended Kobe Bryant from the Jan. 30 game in New York was that the play in which Bryant struck Manu Ginobili in the head might as well have been a Rorschach test for what people think of Bryant himself.

If youre a Kobe fan, you saw the league office overreacting to a sequence of events that unfolded so fast in real time that the referees missed it. If youre a Kobe hater, you saw a dirty player going head-hunting after having his shot blocked.

The same thing applies to the play at the end of regulation in Tuesdays game that led to Bryants one-game suspension and the Lakers loss to Milwaukee. One thing I think is important to realize is how different things look live in person instead of ESPN.

Maurice Evans talked about this after the game; Ill include his quote below. I just cant get past the fact that the play seemed insignificant watching it with my own eyes at Target Center. Marko Jaric picked himself up and stayed in the game. End of story, right?

The Ginobili play occurred at the end of a nationally televised ABC game and left the Spurs without one of their star players for the start of overtime. Jaric was hurt so badly he was able to block Kwame Browns shot in the final seconds of regulation.

Thats right, Jaric blocked the shot of one of the NBAs biggest and strongest players only seconds after getting hit in the face by Bryant.

Its just amazing to me how if you watch a replay a dozen times, it can change the way you view an entire event. If you go frame by frame, everything of course looks different.

“I was actually on the floor when it took place and I didnt realize the severity of it until I went back and saw it on ESPN, Evans said, “and I saw them replay the Ginobili incident and there were a lot of similarities.

“So I knew once his nose was kind of bleeding and all that, that most likely it would take place, the suspension.

(As an aside, the NBA office had better be making sure that Ron Artest is at the top of their priority list right now as opposed to Bryants flailing arms. Theres no doubt in my mind which is a bigger black eye for the league.)

Its also worth noting that Jaric apparently didnt think a suspension was warranted. He said as much to ESPN.com. I assume Jaric was interviewed by the NBA security office and told them the same thing.

“I don’t think he did it intentionally, and I don’t think players should be suspended for things that happen unintentionally,” Jaric said. “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.”

You also have to wonder if the NBA realizes what its doing when it suspends Bryant for his one game in New York or Milwaukee all season. There was so little energy in the arena for Tuesdays game that it might as well have been played in a library or morgue.

* * *

We present Wednesdays game as Exhibit A in explaining how Andrew Bynum struggles in back-to-back games. Bynum missed his first three shots and never got going against the Bucks. It would have been fun to see Bynum match Andrew Bogut basket for basket.

* * *

Sasha Vujacic (6 points, 2 of 7 shooting) got the start against Milwaukee and was out of control in the first quarter. He managed to make a steal on the defensive end and then dribble out of bounds on the same play for a turnover.

Vujacic also might have taken one of the most inexplicable shots of the Lakers season. He launched a 3-pointer with seven seconds left in the third quarter when the Lakers were supposed to be holding for the last shot. Not a smart play.

* * *

Something I’d never seen before: With 3:26 left, Phil Jackson sent Jordan Farmar, Maurice Evans and Bynum back into the game. Of course, he only had four players on his bench. That left Shammond Williams sitting alone in a sea of empty seats. I think I counted six empty seats between Williams and the nearest assistant coach.

* * *

Funny moment with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter of a blowout game. You’ve probably read or heard about how Phil Jackson last month changed how he operates during timeouts. Instead of standing in the huddle, he now sits in a chair and faces his players on the bench.

Its the job of somebody to get that chair there, as well as to place the special cushion (the approximate size of a New York City phonebook) that Jackson sits on. Chip Schaefer and Alex McKechnie, two members of the training staff, have split the duties so far.

Jackson went so far as to joke to an ABC reporter before Sundays game in Phoenix that Schaefer was getting stronger when it comes to handling the chair.

When McKechnie fumbled the cushion to the floor during the timeout, Schaefer could been seen laughing and motioning with his arms the same way a football referee does when a pass is bobbled. Like all things, the Lakers remain a work in progress.

* * *

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE–As soon as he saw Kobe Bryants arm meet Marko Jarics head late in the fourth quarter of Tuesdays loss to Minnesota, Lakers coach Phil Jackson had a feeling Bryant would be getting another call from the league office.

“In this league, everybodys got a pretty face, Jackson said, “and theyre trying to keep it that way.

Those fears were confirmed Wednesday when the NBA followed the precedent it set in suspending Bryant for one game at the end of January after he struck San Antonios Manu Ginobili in the head on a nearly identical late-game play.

The league suspended Bryant for Wednesday nights game against the Milwaukee Bucks, leaving the Lakers with only nine available players – – six of them guards – – after forward Ronny Turiaf was unable to play due to back spasms.

What followed was a punchless 110-90 loss to Milwaukee in which the Lakers trailed from start to finish. The Bucks shot 59.5 percent as a team with Charlie Villanueva (26 points) and Andrew Bogut (22 points) each making 10 of 12 shots.

The Lakers lost their fourth consecutive game, dropping to 0-3 on this road trip, and must win Friday at Philadelphia to avoid becoming the first Jackson-coached team ever to suffer two five-game losing streaks in the same season.

Only 2 1-2 weeks ago, Bryants personal comeback was the story of the NBAs All-Star weekend. He was selected as the games MVP and judged the dunk contest alongside Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Julius Erving.

Now Bryant is viewed as a repeat offender in the eyes of the league office. He was suspended from the Lakers Jan. 30 loss to New York for the play involving Ginobili and watched Wednesdays game from the team hotel.

Jackson said Bryant was trying to draw a foul on the play by flailing his arm. Bryant, who was not available for comment, lost more than $161,000 in pay from the suspension.

For the second time this season, Stu Jackson, the NBAs executive vice president of basketball operations, had to explain the decision to suspend Bryant. Jackson was specifically asked about the perception that the league was singling out Bryant.

“My response to that, Jackson said in a teleconference, “would be that Ive not seen this type of contact exhibited by a player whereby the player takes a shot, follows through and then drives an arm backward into a defenders body making contact above the shoulders. I have not.

Stu Jackson said he was “very surprised to see a second, nearly identical, incident involving Bryant. He added that he considered suspending Bryant for multiple games and put Bryant on notice that a third offense would be dealt with more harshly.

“In cases where weve had multiple offenses, at some point the player becomes a recidivist, Jackson said, “and certainly, if this occurs again, most likely there would be multiple games.

The play in question happened with 58.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of a double-overtime loss to Minnesota. Bryant pulled up for a jumper and Jaric got a hand on the ball to block the shot. The same thing happened with Ginobili as well.

Bryant then swung his right arm and connected with Jaric in the face. He was called for a loose ball foul on the play; Jaric stayed in the game and went on to make a key block of Kwame Brown with 8.4 seconds left in regulation.

“I think Im going to have to put about 50 clips (together) of Kobe shooting his shot with his arms going out like that, Phil Jackson said. “ Its not an unnatural basketball motion for him.

Stu Jackson described the play involving Bryant as having two separate motions. The first came as he followed through on his shot. The second came as he cleared out the Timbwerolves guard with a “hard arm driven backward into Jarics head.

“That movement is not an acceptable movement, Jackson said.

Although the Lakers were furious with the leagues decision, Phil Jacksons pregame comments were tinged with resignation.

“We saw it happen and said, `Thats awful similar to what happened in L.A. versus San Antonio right off the bat, Jackson said.

He later credited the league for one thing: “If theyre going to make a call, even if theyre wrong, theyll still be consistent.

Stu Jackson admitted that he didnt talk to Bryant about the incident, leaving that task for an NBA security official. Asked if he had a problem with that, Phil Jackson said: “They never talk individually to people. They send their henchmen out to do their dirty work.

The coach said he tried to find the positive in the suspension for Bryant, who played 53 minutes in the double-overtime game. With a night of rest, Bryant might be better served for upcoming games against Philadelphia and Dallas.

“Itll come out at the other end somewhere, and thats what he has to look at, Jackson said.

* * *

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE–The Lakers could have blamed Kobe Bryants one-game suspension, the 58 minutes of basketball they played the night before or the injuries that left them with a team that could have squeezed into a mini-van for the ride to Bradley Center.

They refused to make any of those excuses, however, after a 110-90 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks that coach Phil Jackson described as “embarrassing. It was the 10th loss in 13 games for the Lakers, who had only nine players available for the game.

“Its just disappointing that we didnt give the type of effort that we needed to compete in this basketball game for 48 minutes, forward Maurice Evans said.

The Bucks led from start to finish and shot 59.5 percent even as guard Michael Redd – – who scored 45 points in a November victory over the Lakers at Staples Center – – made just 3 of 11 shots and finished with only 10 points.

With one game left on this road trip, the Lakers also must consider that they face an uphill climb just to match last seasons 45-37 record. They would need to win 12 of their final 20 games to reach what seemed like a modest goal entering this season.

“All the teams are jockeying for position right now, Evans said, “and we have to figure out what our identity is going to be and what we want to accomplish out of this season.

“You just dont go on a 10 out of 13 slid with little or no resistance. Its frustrating. We started off too good and we showed too much potential at home to give it up like this.

With Ronny Turiaf out with back spasms, the Lakers were left with six guards and three big men for Wednesdays game. Jackson opted to start Sasha Vujacic in a lineup with Smush Parker, Brian Cook, Andrew Bynum and Evans.

Jackson tried various combinations, playing a zone defense at times, pairing Bynum and Kwame Brown in a lineup and starting the second half with rookie Jordan Farmar on the floor after not playing Farmar in the first half.

“It looked like we only had one half in us, Jackson said, adding about his four-man bench, “I was just looking down there for help and there was nothing there.

The Lakers “collapsed, as Jackson put it, in the third quarter, turning what had been a four-point game into an 18-point runaway. Charlie Villanueva hit six 3-pointers on the way to 26 points, Andrew Bogut added 22 points and Charlie Bell had 20 points.

With Bryant, Lamar Odom and Luke Walton all out of the lineup, the Lakers were missing three of their four double-figure scorers, who average more than 57 points between them. Evans led the Lakers with 22 points while Cook added 20.

“Certainly, when a guy like Kobes not going to be on the court, either subconsciously or consciously, its going to have an effect, Milwaukee coach Terry Stotts said.

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