PHOENIX -- The NBA suspended Phoenix guard Raja Bell for one
game on Wednesday for throwing Kobe Bryant to the floor in the
fourth quarter of Tuesday night's playoff game against the Los
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
"I have no respect for him. I think he's a pompous, arrogant individual."
Raja Bell, about Kobe Bryant
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
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
"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
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."