Some notes du jour from courtside after the Lakers' 114-106 win over the Phoenix Suns Friday night...
Missing In Action
The Los Angeles Lakers bench was a little less crowded Friday.
With the team flying into Phoenix on Thursday night and flying out Friday night following the game, injured players Andrew Bynum (right knee) and Luke Walton (right hamstring) did not travel with the team.
With such a short trip, and both player unable to play even if they were in Phoenix, the team left them back in Los Angeles to rehabilitate with some of the training staff.
“We would take all of our therapists with us on a trip that’s longer for that purpose,” Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said. “If it’s an overnight trip, we can get away with not taking [trainer] Marco [Nuñez].”
Bynum is expected back in the lineup in late November. Walton missed most of the preseason with his strained hamstring, did not practice with the team Thursday but participated in an individual workout with athletic performance therapist Alex McKechnie.
Let Me Tell You a Story
The Suns front office replaced an NBA television analyst turned general manager with an NBA agent turned general manager this summer when Steve Kerr returned to the broadcast booth and Lon Babby stepped in.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he’d never heard of such a drastic career change in the NBA (he didn’t recall agent Jason Levien joining the Sacramento Kings as an assistant general manager in 2008), but he did remember it occurring in the NHL, of which he is an avid fan.
Jackson did remember another unique route someone took to becoming an NBA executive, however. Charley Eckman spent the first five years of his career in the NBA as a referee before making the switch to head coach of the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1954. Jackson said Eckman later went on to become the Pistons general manager and also served as a pitchman for the “Home Court Basketball” board game.
Just because he used to be an official, doesn’t mean Eckman was any easier on the refs when he became a coach.
“I’m sure he got technicals, without a doubt,” Jackson said.
Speaking of technicals, the Lakers were only whistled for one T in their season opening game (Derek Fisher) under the new conduct rule, but Jackson said he could pick out the other near technicals that weren’t called when watching the tape from the Houston game.
“When we watched tape the players were all laughing at the genuflections that the other players were doing when they got a look from a referee like, ‘I’m going to T you up,’” Jackson said. “They start bowing and genuflecting right away, so, [the rule’s] had its effect.”
Getting Away with It
Kobe Bryant, in his 15th season and Grant Hill, in his 16th, have had many a battle over the last decade in the half in the league, so much so that it’s common to see an extra shove in the back by Bryant or grab of the jersey by Hill that goes unseen by the officials.
“We both know what we can get away with,” Bryant said. “I know what I can get away with: bloody murder. It’s fine with me.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum of eluding the officials on Friday was Matt Barnes. He was whistled for a technical foul with 5:32 remaining in the fourth quarter by referee Joe Crawford for doing nothing more than jogging over to Crawford and handing him the ball after being called for a loose ball foul.
When Barnes started to be asked about the call, the forward could sniff out where the question was going and interrupted the question.
“Woah!” Barnes said, followed by an exasperated sigh. “I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and [Crawford’s] not even letting me. At least let me earn a technical foul, that’s crazy. All I did was run up and hand him the ball. I didn’t say nothing. But, there’s nothing you can do about that.”
The Lakers have picked up two technical fouls through their first two regular season games with the new rule that punishes “overt reactions” to officials’ calls. Derek Fisher was whistled for one against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
Price of Admission
Friday was the Suns’ home opener for the season, a hot ticket to be sure with the Lakers coming to town, but hotter than Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals last season against these same Lakers? According to Phoenix’s new variable ticket pricing policy, it was.
The average ticket to Friday’s regular season game in October cost 150 percent more than the average ticket to the last time these two teams played a playoff game at U.S. Airways Center last May. The new policy, which places a premium price on high-interest games when teams like the Lakers or the Miami Heat comes to town and discounts tickets when cellar-dwellers like the Minnesota Timberwolves or New Jersey Nets visit, has not been immediately successful in Phoenix.
About four hours before game time, there were still more than 250 tickets available, with the cheapest single seat in the upper bowl costing more than $100. According to multiple sources within the Suns organization, prominent and relatively wealthy people including the owner of a D-League franchise and an NFL player on the Arizona Cardinals called to inquire about Lakers tickets, but balked when informed of the escalated price.
In an article posted on the Suns website on Sept. 13, the team calls the plan “dynamic pricing” and notes that “more than 30 games will feature a lower average single-game ticket price than last season.” Approximately 8-10 teams in the NBA have adopted a variable pricing scheme this season, including the Lakers. Under the new plan, the cheapest seats on sale for when the Miami Heat visit Staples Center on Christmas Day or when the Boston Celtics come to L.A. on Jan. 30 are $150.