After holding the Knicks to 87 points despite a fourth quarter without an ejected Andrew Bynum, the talk of El Segundo on Monday centered around technical fouls and defense. On a positive front, the league announced today Drew's second technical (the one that ultimately got him tossed) was rescinded. As someone who expressed displeasure at how Leon Wood handled Bynum's relatively mild displeasure with a bad call, I was happy to see the league correct a mistake. While it felt like Jackson would have preferred Drew drop the matter after the first T, he noted how out demonstrativeness of any kind is fairly rare for the laid back center.
"Drew is usually a pretty mild mannered kind, so that was unusual for him," said Jackson. "That was a situation (that) just exacerbated itself the call went on. The first one was okay. The second one is not."
On the flip side, Drew's incident was just one of three technicals issued to the Lakers. Ron Artest got one for grabbing the neck of Shawne Williams, and was lucky to have gotten off that easily. (As Jackson said, "I think that was one pretty point blank. He has to eliminate that.") And Kobe Bryant will also be cutting a check to the league. As I wrote in my postgame report and Phil seconded, the superstar had been fouled on several occasions and basically blew up.
But this injustice and Phil's sentiments about referees being responsible for controlling a game acknowledged, the Lakers are prone to getting thrown by calls or (especially) no-calls, and their leader arguably sets that tone. Bryant has seven T's on the season (tied for third highest in the league), just one away from the halfway point towards an automatic one-game suspension. This pace clearly concerns Jackson, who's "talked a lot" with Kobe and the team in general about just playing through adversity and dialing back reactions.
A good example was actually set by Kobe himself today. Check out the way he responds when asked about his knee. Or technical fouls in general.
Now that's the ticket! Icily civil words kept to a minimum, despite obvious disdain for the queries. Nothing to see here, Leon Wood!
Considerably more enthusiasm was offered by Kobe about the Lakers' improved play on the defensive end. As Kobe described it, Chuck Person's defensive background, combined with Phil's desire to continually "add things to the mix" was the impetus for an adjusted attack:
"We're figuring the defensive system before, and it's funny, because we never really had a system before. We've always read and reacted to each other. But I think putting in this system will help us down the road and help us get better. We're just learning it."
Kobe later described the new approach as equal parts "effort" and "organization":
"Make people take contested, tough shots. That's the key. Keep the ball in front of you. Make them take tough shots. Everybody has role and everybody has an assignment and it changes depending on what position you're in on the floor. It's no different than what you see other teams doing. A lot of teams have systems. They've been using it for a period of time. We're getting used to it. A lot of things that we're doing, we've done (instinctively) over the past couple of years, but now it's kind of putting assignments on things."
So were the recent defensive issues the result of confused or scattered minds? From Kobe's perspective, it's a little of both:
"As of late, it's all adjustments. That's all that is. As of late. Prior to that, it was lack of focus."
It's interesting to hear Kobe talk about the Lakers playing defense without a "system" previous to this season. I may recall incorrectly, but I'm pretty certain I've heard players (maybe even The Mamba himself) use that word while talking about their defense during the 2009 and 2010 title runs. And it's not like the last two seasons were spent running around like headless, ineffective chickens on D. The 2009 squad was solid defensively and last year's champs were better at preventing points than scoring them.
Maybe it's a matter of semantics, since accounts have varied as to how radical the redesign truly is. But either way, everyone involved appears very pleased by the game plan, which hopefully bodes well for the polished product.
I also loved Kobe's cheeky immediate reaction when asked if Bynum throwing down four or five times against the Knicks was a sign of coming around offensively:
"Because he had four dunks? He's seven foot twenty!"
And then we came full circle. Kobe happily talked D after going mum on T's. Phil was happy to talk T's, but stiff-armed Dave McMenamin's questions about the D: