Tuesday, May 26, 2009
NBA upgrades trip to flagrant foul
By Marc Stein
Denver Nuggets guard Dahntay Jones is on the brink of a one-game suspension after the NBA upgraded his Game 4 trip of Kobe Bryant to a flagrant foul.
The foul -- deemed a flagrant foul 1 by league officials -- is Jones' third flagrant of the postseason and his second in the past two games in the Western Conference finals. That gives Jones three flagrant-foul points in the playoffs, with players receiving an automatic one-game ban when they exceed three points.
The league confirmed Tuesday night that Jones' third-quarter trip -- which was not spotted by the officiating crew -- has been reclassified as a flagrant 1. It also confirmed that Andrew Bynum's fourth-quarter flagrant 1 against Denver's Chris Andersen has been downgraded to a personal foul.
Bryant beat Jones on a backdoor cut to the basket but was sent tumbling when Jones stuck out his right foot. Jones called it an accidental, instinctive move to getting beat on the play. Lakers coach Phil Jackson nonetheless accused Jones of "unacceptable defense, tripping guys and playing unsportsmanlike basketball."
Nuggets coach George Karl told reporters Tuesday: "I'm glad it just was a flagrant and no suspension. I don't think this series is anything but a pretty even NBA playoff series. They're not liking us, we're not liking them and it's not getting any kinder. It's going to be harder, tougher and meaner.
"[But] I don't think the precedent is good. If [referee] Bennett Salvatore saw that play, would he have called a flagrant? I think he would have called a foul, but I don't think he would have called a flagrant. I think the mood of the game is being overridden by the mood of the [league] office. I'm not sure that's the right precedent."
Asked Monday night if he thought Jones' trip was deliberate, Bryant quipped: "I just fell on my face for no reason. I'm a klutz."
Bryant said Tuesday his opinion of Jones hasn't changed: "It hasn't at all. He's a good player."
There were also four technical fouls in Game 4, with Denver's Carmelo Anthony collecting his fourth T of the postseason and Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith each picking up No. 3.
Players who reach the five-T barrier in the playoffs receive a warning letter from the league office, with one-game suspensions assessed after the seventh technical and every other one thereafter (ninth, 11th, 13th, etc.).
Martin has actually collected six technical fouls this postseason, but his previous three before Monday night's T were rescinded by the league office. Bryant's tech total is five, with one rescinded by the NBA as well.
After collecting his fifth T in the first game of the Denver series -- with potentially 13 games left in his season at that point -- Bryant vowed: "I won't get another one."
Jackson and the Lakers each received a $25,000 fine Tuesday after his pointed postgame comments Monday about the Game 4 officiating, during which Denver shot 49 free throws to L.A.'s 35. The Lakers had a 45-31 edge in free throw attempts in Game 3.
"Basketball is a game where the aggressor gets the advantage," Jackson said after Denver evened the series at 2-2. "And tonight we didn't know what a foul was and what wasn't a foul. Start of the game, we got guys knocked around going to the basket, they said, 'We're going to let those things go.' By the end of the ballgame, little fouls were being called all over the place."
Jackson is the second coach to attack Jones during these playoffs. New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott registered similar complaints during the first round when Jones relentlessly hounded Chris Paul.
"I wouldn't expect them to call me the greatest player in the world," Jones said.
Said Karl: "Everybody knows how we use him. We sic him on the best perimeter guy. That's his job, that's his assignment. A Bruce Bowen mentality and he's done a good job with it. He's done well with it."
Denver's physical nature has been a prominent topic throughout the playoffs, but Jones isn't backing down from his detractors.
"They know there's a presence there and I'm going to play hard and I'm going to scrap and I'm going to try to help my team win, so whatever you want to call it," Jones said. "We call it playing hard."
Karl added: "If I was Kobe I wouldn't want [Jones] to cover me. He's a pain, he's a nag, he's always bothering you. He has a good defensive base, he has a good stance. He's professional. Whatever we want him to do, from fronts to denials, he's willing to do. I think he's doing as good a job as anyone on our team."
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.