In the first 24 hours after Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant landed on Atlanta’s Dahntay Jones‘ foot and severely sprained his ankle, the reaction around the NBA for breaking an unwritten rule was mostly unspoken. I’ve seen reports from several local beat writers who turned to the teams they cover for comment, and the responses were guarded. Coaches don’t want to speak about another team’s player, and players seem content to keep their opinion on whether Jones meant to hurt Bryant on low volume. Cleveland’s Daniel Gibson â€” and to a degree, his coach Byron Scott â€” however, broke out the figurative megaphone today to say, loud and clear, that they don’t condone Jones “very dangerous play.”
Some context: Last season Gibson rolled his ankle on Feb. 15 while being defended by Indiana’s Paul George, and Jones played for the Pacers last season. The injury became a torn tendon in his ankle and foot six weeks later when he injured the ankle, as well, and Gibson missed several games. While it’s likely safe to assume a player like Gibson, who identifies as a shooter, would come down hard (pun intended) on any defender for stepping into a shooter’s landing zone, Jones’ Indiana connection with the ankle injury exacerbates Gibson’s reaction.
From the Akron Beacon Journal‘s Jason Lloyd:
“I think that was a dirty play,” Gibson said. “He’s been known to be a guy to do that.”
Gibson went straight for Jones’ history as a tough â€” the Cavalier would call it “dirty” â€” defender for his main criticism. In that, in his eyes, this wasn’t a one-time offense at the expense of Kobe Bryant.
“If you watch the tape, after the shot was taken, he kept walking forward toward him,” Gibson said Friday. “He never really turned around to see if the shot went in or anything. He kept walking toward him looking at the ground the whole time.”
“When I saw (Bryant’s injury), it (ticked) me off because (Jones) was on the team with Paul George last year,” Gibson said. “Rumor has it, he taught (George) a few tricks.”
“It’s a very dangerous play,” Gibson said. “You’re vulnerable. There’s nothing you can do besides land. When you start worrying about it, that’s when you start missing shots and that’s what the defender is trying to do â€“ make you think about landing and where you’re coming down.”
Scott said Friday he wasn’t going to directly comment but left no doubt what he thought by adding: “Me and him got into it a couple of years ago anyway. We’ll leave it at that.” What he refers to is a timely quote from 2009 that Lloyd dug up from when Scott was head coach of the Hornets, after a game against Jones and his team then, the Nuggets. The defense walked the fine line between lock-you-down and overzealous: “I can appreciate anybody that plays hard, but when you get to the point where you’re being a little dirty, that’s the thing that kind of aggravates me,” Scott said four years ago. “When you get to the point where you’re being a little dirty then I don’t appreciate that â€“ and I don’t respect it.”
Every player has the right to get upset when a play like Jones vs. Bryant happens. Your health and safety are at risk, putting your career at risk. I wonder, though, about if this play was this truly bad or whether Jones is caught at the flashpoint of a poor reputation and the burning spotlight from Kobe Bryant and less from the severity of the play. After all, I can’t remember any outcry about Gibson’s injury on George’s ankle last year. That was a sleepy mid-February game between Central Division opponents. This was the Lakers in a stretch run under a national microscope, with a game-tying shot on the line. I get that. The play wasn’t pretty or called for, to be certain. But more and more it seems like the play has morphed into a way to openly vent about dirty defenders or Jones’ reputation as one while masking it as a discussion about the state of defense in our league.
What do you think?
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