Kobe Narrowly Avoided Suspension

As you're no doubt aware by now, the Lakers will be without Derek Fisher as they head to Houston tonight for Game 3. And if Kobe Bryant's elbow to the upper chest area of Ron Artest had landed just a couple of inches higher, the team might have been forced to try to win without him as well.

Stu Jackson is the league vice president who ultimately makes the decisions on these things, and in a conference call on Thursday afternoon, discussed how things might have been different had Bryant's elbow hit Artest above the shoulders.

“Certainly, it’s clear in our rules that we treat elbow contact above the shoulder area differently than we do other parts of the body,” Jackson said. "In this case, had he (Bryant) made contact in his head area, certainly we’d be evaluating it on a different level.” Jackson said.

“We did talk to both players (Bryant and Artest), and the focus here was really to try and determine what the relationship was between the two players during the game and what precipitated the incident — and certainly as importantly, where the contact was actually made in their minds," Jackson said. "Ultimately, we made the decision at the league-office level, that this is a flagrant-foul, penalty-one.”

Ron Artest certainly believed the contact was above the shoulders, and it did appear that Bryant's elbow may have caught him in the throat -- which is why Artest ran halfway down the court to confront Bryant about it after it happened.

The bottom line was that the elbow -- while intentional and certainly deserving of a flagrant foul call -- was not meant as a "punch" or as a play to injure Artest. Kobe felt that Artest's hands on the back of his neck immediately preceding the elbow were excessive, so the move was meant as way to clear space.

Was it a flagrant foul? Certainly. But deserving of a suspension? Absolutely not, and thankfully, the league saw it the same way.

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