In the aftermath of the Lakers’ loss in Atlanta on Wednesday night, much of the talk has revolved not around the game itself, but the crucial play at the end of the game in which Kobe Bryant severely sprained his ankle.
Following the game, Bryant was clearly angry, saying that Hawks defender Dahntay Jones was wrong to place his foot in a dangerous area where Bryant could land on it, and saying he was frustrated that he had to wait a year to exact his revenge.
The NBA released a statement today admitting that a foul should have been called, but did not address the issue of intent, and Kobe himself stopped short of saying that Jones tried to injure him on purpose.
Jones said on Twitter: “I have the utmost respect for @kobebryant I would never try to intentionally hurt him. Just wanted to contest the fadeaway #thatsall”
But given that there is a history between the two players, it’s understandable that fans might think otherwise. There was one incident in particular that seems to hint at some enmity between the two players.
The play came in the 2009 Western finals, when Jones intentionally tripped Bryant on a cut to the basket:
Jones addressed that play on Twitter as well: “Now what happened in 09' I am not proud of but it was a heated playoff series with a championship on the line.”
Do you think Wednesday night’s play was intentional, or do you believe Jones?
There did not appear to be any animosity or jawing between the players – or any of the Lakers and Hawks – during the game. We all know that the Lakers are attempting to make the playoffs, but this was also an important game for the Hawks, who are trying to catch the Nets for the No. 4 spot in the East. Kobe was taking a shot that could have sent the game into overtime, and Jones was trying to stay close, contest the shot, and make it a difficult one.
And yes, he may have been easing into Kobe’s space a bit as an irritant, to make him think about his presence during the shot.
Was it a dangerous play? Yes. Should it have been called a foul? Yes. But was it made with intent to injure? Not likely.
You can follow Bob Harkins on Twitter at @bharks.