Lamar Odom, NBPA upset with tech rule
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Midway through the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason game against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, Lamar Odom was whistled for a shooting foul against Carl Landry.
After the call was made, Odom kept his offending arm up in the air for several seconds to indicate he believed his defense was legal and within the rule of verticality, and an official promptly issued him a technical foul.
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The explanation? Even though Odom's mouth was silent, his arm was raised for more than three seconds. Automatic technical.
"That was one of the weirdest technicals I've ever gotten," Odom said after the game.
The situation surrounding the NBA's new guidelines for technical fouls -- which will expand to include "overt" player reactions to referee calls this season -- is becoming even weirder.
The National Basketball Players Association issued a strongly worded statement Thursday that threatened legal action and said the changes "may actually harm our product."
"The new unilateral rule changes are an unnecessary and unwarranted overreaction on the league's behalf," NBPA director Billy Hunter said. "We have not seen any increase in the level of 'complaining' to the officials and we believe that players as a whole have demonstrated appropriate behavior toward the officials.
"Worse yet, to the extent the harsher treatment from the referees leads to a stifling of the players' passion and exuberance for their work, we fear these changes may actually harm our product. The changes were made without proper consultation with the players association, and we intend to file an appropriate legal challenge," he said.
While an NBPA lawsuit against the NBA in the midst of the two sides' negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement would certainly be a bad thing for business, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson does not think the rule change is necessarily a bad thing.
"I'd really like to see them clean up the post-foul activity by players," Jackson said after practice Friday. "I think that's the right sentiment. I think it looks better cosmetically for the game if guys just said, 'Yeah, I fouled,' or 'I'll accept the foul,' and go ahead and play the game. Go on with it, rather than try to bargain or protest or create crowd sympathy by their activities. So, I'm in concurrence with it."
Along with essentially giving players less leeway when complaining to officials while empowering refs to issue technicals more frequently, the league also doubled the financial penalty associated with a technical.
Players and coaches will now be docked $2,000 for each of their first five technical fouls. The cost rises to $3,000 for the next five, followed by $4,000 for Nos. 11-15. Starting at 16, players are suspended one game for every two technicals, along with a $5,000 fine for each.
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Even if Odom doesn't agree with the rule, he does think that the fastest way to a player's mouth is through his wallet.
"You have to zip it," Odom said. "If they call you for a tech, it's $2,000. That's a lot of money in America or anywhere. I don't want to give away $2,000 for going, 'Damn, I thought I had the ball!' or showing emotion. I want to keep my money, point blank."
The rule affects the Lakers especially because Kobe Bryant isn't just one of the game's most prolific scorers; he also picks up more T's than a professional Scrabble player. Bryant was whistled for 14 technical fouls last season, fourth-most in the league. In 2008-09 he was called for 11 and the season before that he picked up a league-leading 15 technicals.
When asked about the rule change during media day, Bryant said, "I thought it was like that already." He was partially correct: The league launched a similar initiative prior to the 2006-07 season before abandoning the enforcement of it early on in that season.
Jackson believes that consistent implementation of the new rule by the officials will curb the unwanted behavior from the players.
"Guys will learn," Jackson said. "The one thing about it is, guys will learn very quickly if they get fined or they get ejected. ... Just call it; guys will stop doing it. It may take a week or so, but guys learn real quickly in this game.
As much as the Lakers seemed resigned to the rule's staying in effect with less than two weeks before the start of the regular season, they still pointed out problems with it.
Odom pointed out that a player could raise his arm for more than three seconds after a foul call and actually be identifying himself as the culprit, respecting the game.
"Sometimes guys even raise their hands saying, 'Oh, yeah, I [fouled] him,'" Odom said. "Sometimes people would consider that good basketball etiquette."
Jackson said that it could actually end up causing more headaches for the referees.
"In the second half [after the Odom technical], I heard my coaching staff say about the Sacramento team, 'He's got his arm up too long!'' Jackson said. "Just tit for tat, but we hope it doesn't get into that stuff."
Pau Gasol said that in Europe the officials allow occasional outbursts because they believe that is the nature of the game. "It's an emotional game, no matter what," Gasol said. "I understand the cursing and a bit of reaction to a call, [but] you're going to react if you don't agree with a call. You can't keep yourself cool all the time."
Odom also pointed out the hypocrisy of the league's celebrating emotional play in television commercials and advertisements, while at the same time punishing emotional reactions to the officials by doling out technical fouls.
"It's kind of crazy because that's what people love to see. You watch the commercials and the NBA has dunking, [players making] faces and 'Where Amazing Happens,'" Odom said. "Now it's like 'Where Normal Happens.' ... There's nothing amazing about not showing emotion."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Andy Kamenetzky of the Land O' Lakers blog contributed to this report.