Bryant begins a two-game suspension as the Lakers host the streaking Utah Jazz in the start of a home-and-home series.
Bryant elbowed Memphis’ Mike Miller in the throat with 8:24 left in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 100-99 overtime loss Wednesday to the Grizzlies. Bryant, who finished with 45 points, suspended Friday. He also will miss Tuesday’s game at the Delta Center.
Bryant, who had a gash opened over his left eye in the second quarter when Miller pushed him in the face with his hand while driving, was unrepentant when asked about the foul after the game.
“Any player that was going to come down the lane at that point in time, I was going to let him know that he just can’t walk through there,” he said. “I think we as a team have to do a better job of establishing that. And me, as a leader of the ballclub, I’ve got to take the initiative to do that—and hopefully, everybody will see that.
“This being our home court, people come here and think it’s Hollywood and all sorts of stuff, so they think they’ll come down (the lane) and look pretty and shoot jump shots and dunk the ball and finger-roll the ball and do all sorts of cute stuff. And we’ve got to stop that.”
On Friday, Bryant did not back down from that statement and added that he was surprised by the suspension.
“Very surprised. Shocked, actually. Very, very surprised,” he said. “Angry and frustrated. I’ve been hit with a couple of flagrant fouls already this year. I’ve been hit with a clothesline and no suspensions come of that. and I get two games for this?”
Coach Phil Jackson said he believed Bryant’s postgame comments were a factor in the suspension.
“I think that contributed to it somewhat,” Jackson said. “So we live with that decision.”
The Lakers could have a tough time without their star guard. He is averaging 32.7 points per game, good for second in the league behind Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson (34.2).
Lamar Odom ranks second on the Lakers with 14.5 points per game.
The Lakers, who are just 6-7 at home, are looking to avoid a season-high four-game losing streak.
The Jazz won their season-best third straight on Saturday, beating the 76ers 108-102. Mehmet Okur finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds and Andrei Kirilenko had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Utah, which wasted a 15-point lead and came back from a six-point, fourth quarter deficit.
Utah, which entered Saturday ranked third-to-last in the NBA with 88.2 points per game, has scored 100 points twice during its winning streak—but both of those games went into overtime.