Phoenix Sun guard Raja Bell wasn't at Staples Center, as per league rules for suspended players, but he watched Game 6 from the swank team hotel in Beverly Hills and was still part of the festivities, in a sense.
Laker Coach Phil Jackson disputed Bell's version of their Game 5 sideline chat, saying he did not use an expletive while critiquing Bell's defense. Then, for extra measure, he reiterated his assertion that Bell had been unfairly hounding Kobe Bryant throughout the series.
"He impedes," Jackson said. "In hockey, we call him a shadower. Wherever he's at, he's in his way, impeding progress, and he's taking a dive once a game to draw an offensive foul and taking a couple charging fouls. Kobe knows he's got to be careful around him all the time. He just doesn't have a free space to work with."
Before Bell was officially suspended by the league, Jackson said a few times he wanted him to play. But Jackson acknowledged criticizing Bell for physical play earlier in the series.
"I told him that before, during the course of the series, that I don't know how you get away with what you do," Jackson said. "I don't know why Kobe hasn't knocked you down before in this situation because he is hanging all over him."
Laker center Kwame Brown was more effective in Game 6, scoring 17 points on eight-for-nine shooting and taking nine rebounds after only a so-so Game 5.
His effort came two days after a 14-point, three-rebound game in 24 foul-plagued minutes of the Lakers' blowout Game 5 loss. Earlier that day, the Los Angeles Police Department announced it was investigating an allegation that Brown was involved in a sexual assault last Saturday. No charges have been filed.
"I can't see how that game couldn't have affected him," Jackson said. "He had camera guys standing eight feet away from him during the national anthem taking his picture. All that focus on him definitely has to make you feel unusually strange."
Brown said in a statement that he was "completely innocent of any wrongdoing" and later told reporters he would "roll with the punches."
Neither the veterans nor the young ones have played much lately.
Jim Jackson, 35, and Aaron McKie, 33, played eight and seven minutes respectively in Game 5, but not much beyond that in the series. Rookie Andrew Bynum hasn't played since a regular-season game April 16 against the Suns.
"Basically, it's been one of those situations where we've gotten productivity from some of the guys off the bench and so we haven't had to look to Jim and Aaron to produce for us as much," Phil Jackson said.