Phil Jackson has mixed assessment on Lakers' high number of technical fouls
Practice sessions for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson go beyond implementing X's and O's, such as installing a new defensive scheme that emphasizes closing out on shooters. Practice sessions for Jackson go beyond deciding how much rest he should grant his veteran players, such as Lakers guard Kobe Bryant as he monitors his surgically repaired right knee. And practice sessions for Jackson go beyond preparing for the next opponent, such as the Lakers' (27-11) game Tuesday at Staples Center against the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-29).
It entails constant discussion about playing through officiating and includes knowing the roles, recognizing how a game is going to be called on a particular night and how to adjust to those situations. Of course, the backdrop to this discussion entails minimizing the demonstrative and overt reactions NBA referees have scrutinized more this season, a problem that's plagued the Lakers as they've compiled 15 technicals in the last 10 games.
"The [video] edit that we got from the league shows everything from genuflecting to referees and walking away and then praying before he blows the whistle," Jackson said of the NBA's instructional video the Lakers received before the season explaining the new rule. "That's probably the best thing you can do."
Jackson's messages serve two purposes. He puts his dig into the NBA's "Respect for the Game" rule, which Jackson believes is a "code word" for not "disrespecting the officials." He also offers advice to his team on how to limit the technicals, which has included ejections to Kobe Bryant (Dec. 21 against the Milwaukee Bucks), Matt Barnes (Dec. 29 against New Orleans) and Andrew Bynum (Jan 9 against New York).
"I don't give it much thought," said Bryant, whose seven technical fouls this season rank highest among the Lakers and third-highest in the NBA.
That's exactly Jackson's point, hoping his players take a more cognizant effort to avoid those calls moving forward. Bryant may insist he "can afford it," in reference to compiling the first five technicals that result in a $2,000 fine, the next five that draw a $3,000 penalty, the 11th-15th that result in $4,000 fines and the 16th, which sparks a $5,000 fine and a one-game suspension, with one-game suspensions for every other one after that. Jackson acknowledged those calls eventually could cost the Lakers games or lead to, in his eyes, more unfavorable officiating in the future.
"They should walk away from a call," he said. "They can express themselves. But there are requirements." Jackson's criteria has varied depending on the player. On Artest's clothesline on Amare Stoudemire and choke hold on Shawne Williams during the Lakers' 109-87 victory Sunday over the New York Knicks: "That one was pretty point-blank. He has to eliminate that." On Bryant's six technicals and one ejection: "He has to be able to handle that." And on Bynum's ejection against New York after briefly making contact with referee Leon Wood while arguing his clean block against Stoudemire: "Drew is usually a pretty mild-mannered kid so that was unusual for him. So I think that was a situation that exasperated itself as a call went on. The first one was okay. The second one was not."
Fortunately for the Lakers, the NBA agreed with Jackson's assessment, rescinding Bynum's second technical and sparing him the $2,000 that comes along with that. Just don't assume Jackson lobbied to the league on behalf of Bynum.
"I dont talk to Leon Wood," Jackson said. "I don't associate with trying to mollify, justify or hear that stuff. It doesn't make any sense. They made the call. Nothing is going to change.
"I think it's about the tenor of the game," he continued. "If the game gets heated, physical and contentious and the energy rises, their job is to control a game and then they become wary of controlling it. That's the tactic they can use to do that."
And the tactic the Lakers can use to combat that, argues Jackson, involves accepting calls as just another obstacle that they have to overcome.
Said Jackson: "Guys have to hold to that and they have to contain [themselves]."
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