NEW YORK - The Los Angeles Lakers won’t have Derek Fisher for Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series, but Kobe Bryant will be in the lineup because the elbow he threw at Ron Artest landed just low enough.
Fisher and Orlando’s Rafer Alston were both suspended one game by the NBA on Thursday for separate incidents in playoff games the previous night. The league also assessed Bryant a flagrant foul one penalty for elbowing Artest during the second half of the Lakers’ testy victory over the Houston Rockets.
However, Bryant was not suspended because the league ruled he elbowed Artest in the chest area. Had it been above the shoulders — and Artest said it was his neck — the Lakers All-Star likely would have been banned from the arena Friday.
“It’s clear in our rules that we treat elbow contact above the shoulder area differently than we do other parts of the body,” NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson said on a conference call.
Contact above the shoulders wouldn’t have guaranteed a suspension, but would have caused Jackson to take a closer look at the review to determine if the elbow was deliberate.
“It’s not cut and dry because certainly there have been players that have been hit in the head with elbows that we haven’t necessarily suspended those players because we felt it was inadvertent or part of a basketball play that in some cases was unavoidable,” Jackson said. “Certainly in this case, had he made contact in his head area, certainly we’d be evaluating it on a different level.”
The two suspensions Jackson did hand out were both easy calls.
In the Magic’s 112-94 loss on Wednesday night, Boston’s Eddie House was celebrating after making a shot when Alston reached out and slapped him in the back of the head. Each received a technical foul after standing face-to-face for a few seconds before referees intervened.
Jackson said Alston would have been ejected if the referees had seen the slap.
Later Wednesday night, Fisher was called for a flagrant foul when struck the Rockets’ Luis Scola, who was setting a pick, with his shoulder and head as the Rockets brought the ball up the court. He was ejected.
Both players will miss games on Friday. The Magic are at home, tied 1-1 with Boston, while the Lakers will be in Houston in a series that is also tied 1-1.
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