Lakers' Kobe Bryant is not experiencing technical difficulties

Lakers' Kobe Bryant is not experiencing technical difficulties
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant looks to the rafters before the start of a game against the Washington Wizards. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The surprise stat of the Lakers' season, other than their unsightly 15-58 record, involves Kobe Bryant.

He has no technical fouls in 57 games.


He used to argue constantly with referees and accrue enough technical fouls over the course of the season to make Lakers coaches sweat. He was never suspended for passing the NBA-imposed limit of 16 but definitely pressed his luck.

The kinder, less-confrontational Bryant has a clean ledger going into the final turn of his career. He picked up a technical foul in December but it was quickly rescinded by the league. He hasn't had another.

Who is this guy?

"It's the new and improved Kobe," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said Sunday. "Once he announced that this was it, he's just been different. He's just been more at peace and I think that has been evident on the court as well."

A reporter joked that maybe Bryant was more money-conscious with his career winding down.

"This is probably the only thing I can say I'm 100% sure of — money is not the issue with Kobe," Scott said, laughing.

Bryant, 37, is getting $25 million this season from the Lakers. A player is fined $2,000 for each of his first five technical fouls, $3,000 for each of the next five and $4,000 for each of the next five.

When a player reaches No. 16, it's a $5,000 fine and a one-game suspension.

Scott wasn't quite ready to say Bryant would emerge unscathed.

"We've still got 10 games left. It could still happen," Scott said before the Lakers played their 73rd game, a 101-88 loss to the Washington Wizards in which Bryant had 17 points.

Roy Hibbert and Metta World Peace lead the Lakers with three technical fouls each this season, World Peace picking up two in a game last week. Scott has none.

Hibbert hindered?

When Hibbert was acquired for a 2019 second-round draft pick, Scott said it didn't matter what the veteran center did on offense. Defense was where his value would be measured.

Hibbert hadn't had the season he wanted, his stats dropping to 6.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game before Sunday's game. He was averaging 1.3 blocked shots, half what he achieved only a few years ago with Indiana.


"His stats are down," Scott said. "I think the biggest transition for Roy is most teams, if not every team in this league, has the ability to go small, which really hurts him out there because he's playing somebody like a Draymond Green, who can stretch the floor and takes away his effectiveness from being in the paint and being able to block shots or alter shots."

Hibbert, 29, will take a significant pay cut when he enters free agency in a few months. He is being paid $15.6 million this season.

Quite simply, he's a defensive-minded big man stuck in the league's trend toward small ball.

There were only a few "legit centers," Scott said, listing Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets and DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers.

"There's not a ton of them that are in the league anymore," he said. "It's kind of hurt Roy from that aspect. Unless you can throw it to that guy in the post a number of times and he could really punish guys, and that's not Roy's game, that's the only way he could really be effective in that type of situation."

Hibbert was supposed to help the Lakers defense, but their young backcourt, not to mention the aging Bryant, have been turnstiles on the perimeter.

"It's been a big adjustment for [Hibbert]," Scott said. "He's been kind of frustrated throughout the season time and time again. But he's a professional, comes to work every day, tries to encourage guys every day."

Defensively, the Lakers were tied for 26th in the league before Sunday, giving up 106.8 points per game.



When: Monday, 6 p.m. PDT.

Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City.

On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 15-57 through Saturday; Jazz 36-37.

Record vs. Jazz: 0-2.

Update: Utah is trying to secure a Western Conference playoff spot and has won seven of its last 10 games, including a 94-85 victory over Cleveland. The Jazz led by 36 points in a 109-82 victory over the Lakers in January. The Lakers shot 34.4% in that game and only 32.6% a week earlier in an 86-74 loss to the Jazz.