- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- In the Los Angeles Lakers' third game of the preseason, Lamar Odom served as a lab rat for the NBA's new technical foul rule, picking up what he described as one of the "weirdest technicals I've ever gotten" for keeping his arm raised for too long after being whistled for a foul against the Sacramento Kings.
That technical occurred in the second quarter of an exhibition game and cost him $2,000. The technical foul that Odom was called for late in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 121-116 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday might have cost his team the game.
Odom absorbed contact from Hedo Turkoglu as he made a layup with 53.7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to cut Phoenix's lead to 111-109. Odom spun around and signaled to referee Ron Garretson that he should have been awarded an and-one call and a chance to bring the Lakers to within one at the foul line. Instead, Odom's reaction drew a technical foul from referee Tony Brown and Steve Nash made the shot to put the Suns up by three with the ball.
It was a two-point swing that Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said "changed the context of the ballgame."
Odom explained the play from his viewpoint.
"It looked like Turkoglu was trying to foul me on purpose, I thought," Odom said. "Actually Ronnie [referee Ron Garretson] was in on the play and I turned to Ronnie [and said] 'And one!' and the ref off the ball called it ... Probably it looked a little more demonstrative [to him] because my back [was turned to him]. You can't see me.
"It's hard to control a normal reaction ... He could tell me to get my damn hand down, or 'What are you doing?' or something, only because it was at that point in the game."
On the Suns' ensuing possession Turkoglu hit a 3-pointer -- one of the team-record 22 triples that Phoenix hit on the night -- to put the Suns up by six with 34.7 seconds remaining and give them firm control of the game down the stretch.
"I was unhappy about the situation that happened with Lamar," Jackson said. "I don't think the NBA wants that type of thing to happen but that's part of the residual that's going to happen off of the policy they have."
Jackson said Turkoglu fouled Odom and his player's reaction was "normal."
During the preseason Jackson commended the NBA for cleaning up what he considered to be too much talking in the game, but after the loss Sunday the coach said Odom's technical went against how the rule change was originally explained by the league.
"Here's what they said, they said, 'We expect a normal reaction,'" Jackson said. "'It's a game of emotion, we expect a normal reaction but we don't want continuing bantering.' So [what Odom did] wasn't continuing and it was a normal reaction, so that's why I'm saying we expect better judgment in that situation."
There was varied reaction to the call in the Lakers' locker room. On one end of the spectrum, Matt Barnes called it "ridiculous" and Kobe Bryant said it was "disgusting." Taking the middle ground, Shannon Brown said, "I don't really know what to say in this situation ... I want to save my money." Odom simply said "a rule's a rule" and Derek Fisher summed up his thoughts much the same, saying, "It is what it is."
Bryant was more critical of the rule than the actual call against Odom.
"It's a bad, bad rule," Bryant said. "It's a bad rule.
"It's subject to so much interpretation. It's tough. I've been toeing the line here so I don't want to [say much more]. You have to [think about the rule when you play] now. It's something you have to be conscious about as a player which kind of throws you off your game a little bit because basketball is such an emotional sport and you have to think about it a little bit."
When asked if the league should revisit the new rule or even drop it all together as it did early in the 2006-07 season after adopting a similarly strict technical policy, Bryant said, "Yes, they should ... I mean, it's a bad one."
Even Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry disagreed with the call, even if it helped his team.
"That's one of those things that I think is really tough," Gentry said. "A guy shows a little bit of emotion, I don't know if it may have been the thing to do, but it's the rule ... If you're asking me if I like the call, I don't particularly like the call but the rule is what it is."
Said Jackson: "[When] you stop the game and change the game around at a critical point in the game like that, [it] is just not the way we want the game to be played. It will even out. People will have better judgment."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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