Was Dahntay’s Defense Dirty?

Last night, the Lakers lost a close game in Atlanta, 96-92. Looking at the box score, it’s just yet another road loss vs a .500+ team, where the Lakers are now just 2-16. But the end of that game is stirring up a lot of controversy. In the final seconds, with the Lakers down 2, Kobe Bryant went up for a fade-away jump-shot on the baseline, as he often does late in games. He was off-balance in the air, following the shot to the rim, when he came to floor and crumpled into a ball. On the way down, his foot came down on top of Hawk swing-man Dahntay Jones’ own foot. It immediately wrenched itself in a direction ankles should not go, and the game ended with Bryant walking down the tunnel to get medical attention.

But where this play really gets dicey, is HOW Jones defended the shot. As Kobe goes up to shoot, Jones makes a weak attempt at contesting Kobe’s look at the basket, instead pressing up tight to Bryant’s body. This practice is somewhat of a no-no in the NBA. An unwritten rule among players that, sadly, not everyone adheres to. The main principle of the rule: You don’t get under a jump shooter, even if contact isn’t made. Far too many times we’ve seen players suffer severe ankle sprains, like Bryant did last night on such plays. It’s simply too dangerous, too risky for defenders to be putting their opponents in harm’s way. Last night, Jones did not follow this rule. Not only did his foot end up under Bryant’s shooting space, he also made contact with Kobe during his shooting motion. For reference, here’s video of the play:

After the game, Bryant took to Twitter with a series of tweets:

As you can see in one of the tweets, a fan links Kobe to some of Dahntay’s past transgressions against him. Here’s the video:

But this argument is not without two sides. Countless twitter users, and Dahntay himself defended his defense. For a full account, take a look at @Dahntay1’s timeline, but here’s the important stuff:

Not only does Jones defend his actions from last night, he also takes the time out to respond to what happened in the 2009 Western Conference Finals, in which the earlier video shows him intentionally tripping Bryant and also breaking another rule within the player’s code: shoving an airborne driver in the back. For evidence as to why you don’t do that, here’s Andrew Bogut after just a slight nudge from Amar’e Stoudemire (gruesome WARNING):

So clearly, Jones doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. He defends his play, saying that it wasn’t even his foot that caused Bryant to fall awkwardly. Now that, is just blatantly not true. Bryant does in fact, kick his right foot out, as Byrant himself admits, but he makes minimal contact with Jones, most of it initiated by the defender’s steps toward him. By rule, that is not a foul, as Bryant does not use the kick out to create separation or make contact with the Hawks’ wing-man. Then he comes down with his LEFT foot onto Dahntay’s planted right foot. Jones would have you believe it was the floor that sprained Bryant’s ankle. Watch the video again. You tell me what happened.

But Jones also defends his intentions, as well as his respect for Kobe Bryant. This may be all well and true, and none of it can be proved false, but that doesn’t excuse his actions. Dahntay knows the dangers of walking under a shooter. That he can’t or won’t recognize this in the game played last night is unacceptable. Admitting that he went too far, purposefully or accidentally, won’t change the outcome of the game, so he has nothing to lose from apologizing to Bryant. It would show, at the minimum, a personal understanding of what he did wrong, and help others to understand the dangers of the play as well. Instead, he’s glorifying his defensive play into something it’s not: an acceptable form of basketball.

Today, after an official review, the NBA posted this on it’s referee page:

With 4.9 seconds remaining in the Atlanta Hawks’ 96-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on March 13, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant attempted a jump shot over the Hawks’ Dahntay Jones. After review at the league office, video replay confirmed that referees missed a foul call on Jones as he challenged Bryant’s shot and did not give him the opportunity to land cleanly back on the floor. Bryant should have been granted two free throws.

Evidently, the league is taking Bryant’s side. This fact, nor any of the others in this article prove Dahntay to be a dirty player, but he’s certainly building himself quite the reputation. More than anything, I worry that he simply doesn’t understand the dangers of his mistakes. Hopefully, it won’t take a similar injury for him to learn. But for now, it should be noted that if you’re being defended by Dahntay Jones, it might be best to take extra caution for your safety. Because he did it more than once last night. Take a look at the 4:20 mark of this video:

If you don’t see it, let me paint the picture for you (quite literally):

KobeDahntay

As Kobe goes up to hit a 3-point shot that would cut the Hawks lead to 1 with under 20 seconds to play, Dahntay does something similar. See that Kobe’s body is directly above Jones’ foot AGAIN. Had he not come down awkwardly as he faded from the basket, a similar scenario might have presented itself.

The Bottom line is that in the course of playing defense, Jones does a lot of unsafe things in order to help his team win games. He says so himself about the 2009 Conference Finals. And he’s not the only one. Kobe’s right, it’s time to clean up the game so that things like this (gruesome WARNING again) don’t happen.

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