Bell suspended one game for takedown of Bryant
That means the Suns will be without Bell, the principal defender against Bryant, for Game 6 Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Phoenix beat the Lakers 114-97 in Game 5 but Los Angeles still leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 and can eliminate the Suns with a victory. In a brief news release, the NBA said Bell was suspended for "excessive and unnecessary contact."
"It was a very unmanly act, and it was unnecessary for our game," commissioner David Stern said before Wednesday night's game in Cleveland. "And if that doesn't put our players on notice that we're here to protect them -- protect them -- then I don't know what will."
After the team landed in Los Angeles, Suns coach and general manager Mike D'Antoni called the suspension "consistent with what the league has been doing with other fouls of this sort.
"We'll accept it and try to suck it up and get the win, and try to get him back for Game 7," D'Antoni said in a telephone interview.
The suspension had yet to be announced when the Suns practiced earlier Wednesday before leaving for Los Angeles. After the workout, Bell repeated that throwing Bryant down was wrong but explained what led to the foul and made clear his dislike for the Lakers' star.
"I have no respect for him," Bell said. "I think he's a pompous, arrogant individual."
Bell said he had been repeatedly hit in the face by Bryant during the game.
"I got a bruised cheek here and I can barely open my jaw on this side," he said, indicating the left side of his face, "and that didn't come from nowhere, and I felt like I'd had enough of that."
Bell said it went from a game to a personal insult.
"When I get hit in the face multiple times, you've stepped across the line with me," he said. "It's not basketball anymore. It was basketball for four games, then when he hit me in the face, that was the last straw last night. It still doesn't excuse me, but that's just the way I felt about it."
At the other end of the court just before Bell threw Bryant down, the Suns guard said he complained to referee Greg Willard about getting hit in the face, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson hollered out that Bell "deserved it," adding a profanity to emphasize the point.
That's why Bell pointed to the Lakers' bench yelling "That's your foul!" after he threw Bryant down.
Bell and Bryant received a double-technicals in the second quarter. A few minutes after Bell was tossed, Bryant was thrown out of the game for his second technical for complaining about James Jones' hard foul on Kwame Brown.
The latest incident is part of a season-long series of expressions of mutual contempt between Bell and Bryant.
After Tuesday night's game, Bryant said he hoped Bell wouldn't be suspended but added that players can't afford to lose their temper in games.
"I'm not trying to go out there and elbow somebody, that's not the way I play," Bryant said. "If you get elbowed, you still have to keep your cool. I get elbowed all the time."
Bell called Bryant's comments "hypocritical."
Bell's teammate Steve Nash said the Lakers have gotten the best of the officiating in the series.
"We're playing a very heated battle and people on the outside are constantly telling guys that we've got to be more physical," Nash said. "It's tough, and he's faced a lot this series. He's done a great job on Kobe, and Kobe gets away with whatever he wants. That's kind of frustrating."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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