We had the chance to sit down before the game with a referee as part of an off-the-record preseason media availability. It was really interesting to go over the leagues points of emphasis for this season, then to see just about every one of them called in Thursdays game.
The NBA is emphasizing everything from traveling calls to offensive and defensive three seconds to making sure players have their jerseys tucked in when they check into games. Those are all things most casual fans will notice rarely, if ever.
Where they will see the difference is if the referees crack down on player conduct like they did Thursday. There were seven technical fouls called in the game and they give an indication of what wont be tolerated this season.
In the second quarter, Smush Parker thought he came up with a steal against Tim Thomas only to be called for a foul instead. Parker picked up the ball in frustration and took two steps with it before being hit with a technical.
That call is one that will be made all season. There was another call late in the third quarter when Sasha Vujacic was whistled for a foul fighting for position inside with Cuttino Mobley.
Vujacic complained to referee Scott Wall about the call and a technical foul was added on. He looked dumbfounded at the technical. We were told the referees are drawing a harder line about what they will listen to this season.
The last technical of note came with 3:12 left in the fourth quarter of a one-point game. Shaun Livingston fought his way to a basket and said something that drew an immediate technical. It was not the call you expect late in a close game.
I don’t think Livingston swore. But the referees are not going to tolerate any profanity on the court even if its directed at nobody in particular. There are just too many people sitting near the court who can hear such things.
Bottom line: The league is going to make allowances for things done and said in the heat of the moment and police just about everything else.
Im not sure how much the fans are going to enjoy it. With the referees taking a hard line Thursday night, we had 59 fouls called, 78 free throws shot, seven technicals and a 2-hour, 45-minute exhibition game.
“We looked at the free throw shooting in the first half, Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis said, “and we went, `Wow, thats usually a games worth of free throws that were shot.
Reggie Miller, who was broadcasting the game for TNT, saw a couple of the higher ups from the NBA league office on his way out and said, “Id have lost all my money with the new rules.
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The Lakers were hoping to run a pick-and-roll play with Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar on the final play of the game. They had success with a similar play at the end of the first half when Parker hit a 21-footer over Thomas.
It showed a lot of confidence to put the ball in Farmars hands in that situation. He couldnt get the ball to Odom and hesitated in attacking immediately against Thomas.
That left Farmar isolated with the clock heading toward zero. He tried to drive the lane. I originally thought he had the ball stolen from behind by Daniel Ewing. Farmar said afterward that Thomas grabbed him by the arm.
“Im always going to be aggressive, Farmar said. “I tried to penetrate. Things happened. Im a rookie, Im not going to get any calls down the stretch. Im glad it happened, Ill learn from it.
“Kobe came in here and showed me a different look that I could have done. Ill definitely learn from it.
Said Rambis: I thought he did a good job making an adjustment and then trying to attack, but it didnt work out well for him.
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Second-round draft pick J.R. Pinnock, who is fighting to make the team, had a nightmarish game in which he missed all seven shots he took.
Even when Pinnock made a nice play in the fourth quarter, stealing the ball from Corey Maggette, he couldnt finish at the other end.
Too eager, trying to do too much, Rambis said. “I think hes a little frustrated that hes not making the shots that he would normally make. All players want to play, all players want to get time. Its got to be a frustrating situation for him.
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Andrew Bynum had some good moments against the Clippers and Elton Brand. He used an up-and-under move to score against him in the third quarter and acrobatically tipped in a Farmar miss to start the fourth quarter.
But Bynum also had four turnovers and was slow with his hands to catch the ball on a couple of plays. He also has to get out of the habit of being so eager to contest shots that he leaves his feet too early.
“One bad habit he has is he always likes to turn baseline, Rambis added. “Then he cant see his teammates, he cant see where the defenders are coming from. Its just a habit hes gotten himself into.
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Who was more upset with Thomas 1 for 11 shooting performance Thursday night? Was it the Lakers fans who remember Thomas shot at the end of Game 6 in last seasons playoffs or the Clippers fans who had to question the player they signed for four years?
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For those who care about such things, Kobe Bryant said he is having the scar tissue in his right knee manually worked on daily. I assume thats through some kind of massage. Bryant also said the physical therapists are making sure that his kneecap is tracking properly in everything he is doing.
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This was the first game at Staples Center this season, and Lamar Odom is paying tribute to his son Jayden in a very personal way. Odom had two pictures of his son up in his locker as well as an oversized T-shirt with his sons picture drawn on the front.