Lakers worry that NBA’s crackdown on behavior will take more than whining out of game

Lamar Odom has a new catchphrase for the NBA.

It has to do with the league’s crackdown on demonstrative on-court behavior, and it’s an offshoot of the league’s “Where amazing happens” mantra.

Odom envisions a commercial with players dunking and walking away quietly with their heads down, arms at their sides, not showing a modicum of excitement.

“Where normal happens or regular happens. Not amazing,” Odom said. “There’s nothing amazing about it. There’s nothing amazing about not showing emotion.”

Odom wasn’t angry, saying it in his typically good-natured tone, but he and the Lakers experienced firsthand how much referees will be cracking down this season, per Commissioner David Stern’s orders.

Odom received a technical foul for raising his arms in protest for a few seconds after he was called for a foul Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings. Coach Phil Jackson was also hit with a technical that night after arguing a delay-of-game call.


The NBA says the crackdown is a response to informal research conducted by the league that shows fans don’t approve of players’ continual whining.

Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett was ejected in the second quarter of a game this week after picking up two technical fouls for voicing displeasure over a foul called on a teammate.

Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill, one of the more sportsmanlike players in the game, and Toronto Raptors forward Reggie Evans were ejected last week after smacking each other a little too hard on the behind after a hard foul by Evans. True story.

The league also has tried to hit players where they feel it most — in their bank balances.

The NBA doubled fines for technical fouls across the board this season, the new penalty system assessing $2,000 for each of the first five technicals a player accrues, $3,000 for technical fouls six through 10, and $4,000 for 11 through 15. If a player gets a 16th technical this season, there is a $5,000 fine and a one-game suspension.

It might not seem like much in a league where the average player salary is $5.8 million, but the players’ association publicly stated its intent to file a grievance, citing the possibility that the league’s crackdown would “harm our product.”

Players are definitely noticing the new changes.

“It’s an emotional game, no matter what,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “You’re going to react if you don’t agree with a call. You just can’t keep yourself cool all the time. It’ll be tough. It’ll be an adjustment. I don’t know if there’s much we can do about it. If you complain, you might get fined even more.”

Jackson has been fined plenty of times for criticizing NBA policies, not to mention specific referees, but found no fault with this new emphasis.

“I’d really like to see them clean up the post-foul activity by players,” he said. “I think that’s the right sentiment. I think it looks better cosmetically for the game if guys just say, ‘I fouled’ or ‘I’ll accept the foul’ and go ahead and play the game … rather than trying to bargain or protest or create crowd sympathy.”

It brings us back to Odom, who says he will adhere to the new guidelines.

“I’m an employee. If you make rules, I’ll abide by them,” he said. “That’s just something that you have to do. We’re mature and old enough to do it. I want to keep my money.”

Bynum, Vujacic updates

Andrew Bynum went through a personal workout Friday with Lakers physical therapist Alex McKechnie but is still a ways from returning to game action.

“This is a beginning,” Jackson said. “It’s going to take him a while before he’s on the court with us. We hope that it’s within a week or two. …That doesn’t mean he’s going to go through a full practice, but he can do some of the things.”

The Lakers have refused to give an official timetable on Bynum’s return from off-season knee surgery, but late November or early December seems likely.

Sasha Vujacic was improving after sustaining a concussion at Thursday’s practice but will not play in exhibition games Saturday and Sunday.

“Sasha says he’s feeling pretty good, actually,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t have blurred vision.”

Then Jackson paused while considering one of his most stubborn players.

“And they did find a brain when they went in there.”