By Sam Rubenstein

The other night, when the Milwaukee Bucks brutalized the Lakers and their sagging playoff hopes (still comfy but for how much longer?), Kobe Bryant watched the game from a restaurant near the Bradley Center. As you already know, Kob was suspended for a game for the second time this season for following through into somebody’s face. Lang already led the discussion group of whether or not the suspension was right. Inconclusive. My personal opinion is that I hate the whole “initiating contact gets the call” phenomenon in the NBA, and it should really just be if you foul somebody, it’s a foul. I hate that offensive players look to draw fouls instead of trying to score baskets. But those are the rules they were given to play with.

Next time I punch someone in the face, I’m just going to say it’s part of my natural follow through and I do it all the time.

But nevermind me, what did the violator himself think of this whole mess? He says he got a raw deal.

“They made a mistake on the first one, and it’s tough now, because by not suspending me now, you have to admit the first one was a mistake. It’s a tough position for him (NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson) to be in to have to swallow that.”

“The reputation that I want to have is that of being a physical basketball player who plays hard, not one that goes out to try and intentionally hurt people. The thing that I caution against is being labeled as a dirty player. It’s something that I’m absolutely not. That’s something that I’ve definitely been concerned about and something that I need to pay attention to.”

I’ve seen in other places Kobe go into more detail about how he’s not stupid enough to sacrifice being able to play – because of how depleted the Laker roster is – for the chance to take a cheap shot. Then again, isn’t that such a perfect alibi, that it would absolve him of any guilt? Hmmmmmm… nah, too paranoid a view. If he were actually a dirty player, this would be the worst possible time to risk showing it. Kobe has always played hard, done whatever it takes to win, but I wouldn’t call him dirty. Bruce Bowen is a dirty player that tries to hurt people on purpose. For all of Kobe’s “competitiveness”, I wouldn’t say he does that.

This IS a raw deal! Could Kobe Bryant be winning in the court of public opinion?