The Associated Press -- Kobe Bryant must not have imagined this when he elbowed Ron Artest in the throat last night.
The NBA has taken drastic measures today, disqualifying the Los Angeles Lakers from the NBA playoffs for "unsportsmanship actions and behaviours detrimental to the NBA".
"By disqualifying the Lakers from the playoffs, we hope to send the message that any act of violence in an NBA game will not be tolerated", David Stern said in a statement. "Behaviours such as bodyslamming another player, flinging high elbows and messing with Ron Artest are certainly not acceptable".
To maintain the continuity of the playoffs, the NBA has decided that the Phoenix Suns, owner of the best record among non-playoff teams, will take the Lakers' place in the playoff bracket. They will play a best-of-five series with the Houston Rockets, with the winner advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
The sudden arrangement certainly took many Suns players by surprise. Steve Nash who is in Hawaii and had been doing nothing but updating his Facebook group, said that he is scrambling to book flight tickets to Houston and is doubtful for Game 1. Jason Richardson is in Michigan and had told the team that he would "drive as fast as I can" to Houston after dealing with an emergency in his family.
Despite the long layoff and a lack of preparation, some of the Suns players still appear confident going into the series. Amar'e Stoudamire, who missed the last 7 weeks of the regular season due to an eye injury, said that he has recovered and could give the Suns' already-potent offense a big boost. Center Shaquille O'Neal, who recently announced on Twitter that he cheated on his diet and ate the Jolly Green Giant for supper, posted another Tweet today comparing Houston center Yao Ming to General Tso's chicken.
Although it was unprecedented for the NBA to disqualify a team during the playoffs, the move was not unexpected. TV ratings of Lakers games had been dipping faster than Sasha Vuijvicivicicjvic reacts to foul calls, and there were rumours that the league wanted to win back its audiences by replacing the unpopular Lakers with the Suns, which plays an up-tempo style that's friendly to the casual fans.
Game 1 is in Friday night in Houston