David Stern smiled as he helped hand out championship rings before the Lakers' season opener, but he wasn't as player-friendly a few minutes earlier.
The NBA commissioner made it clear that increased enforcement of technical fouls was here to stay, telling reporters in a pregame news conference Tuesday that players needed to be on their best behavior this season. No more complaining.
"The spirit of it is that our players don't do that in elementary school, in junior high, high school, college, and then they get their master's [degree] in complaining when they get to the NBA," Stern said. "And that's not a good thing."
In the exhibition season, referees readily called technical fouls on players who demonstrated extra emotion on the court, a new sensitivity that Stern promised would carry over to the regular season.
Players have collectively balked at it, Lamar Odom even joking recently that the NBA slogan should be "Where Normal Happens" instead of "Where Amazing Happens," but Lakers Coach Phil Jackson doesn't seem to have a problem with it.
"I agree that [on] every call a player going back to the referee and asking him [questions], gesticulating and doing all that is not worthwhile," Jackson said. "It's not an enjoyable thing to watch."
A little odd?
The Miami Heat, not the Lakers, continue to be favored to win the NBA championship, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.
The Heat jumped the Lakers last July when LeBron James announced his intent to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
Miami is currently a 7-5 favorite, the Lakers close behind at 2-to-1.
"It's the power brokers of the NBA at this point," said Jay Rood, race and sports book director at MGM Mirage. "They're dominating the board. I'm not drawing bets anywhere else."
Rood actually thought the Lakers should be favored . . . and that was before the Heat looked sluggish in losing to Boston on Tuesday, 88-80.
"If we had Lakers at 2-to-1 and the Heat at 5-to-1, which is probably where I'd think personally it should fall, we would still be taking quite a bit of money with the Heat at that price," Rood said. "My opinion may change on that in the next week — if [the Heat] come out and really, really show they've got a team that is going to play well together and is going to get the job done."
Ringing in the season
Each championship ring handed out Tuesday included 16 diamonds, one for each of the Lakers' championships, and on the underside a small piece of leather from a basketball used in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in June.
Made by jeweler Jason Arasheben of Beverly Hills, the rings also had two small gold trophies on their front, symbolizing the Lakers' back-to-back championships. The Lakers' recognizable trademark was in between the trophies, spread across a gold-and-diamond basketball.
"I wanted it to be representative of the Lakers' brand," said Tim Harris, the Lakers' senior vice president of business operations. "There's only a handful of worldwide brands, but when you look at this ring, you should immediately say, 'That's a championship ring for the Lakers,' as opposed to, 'That's a championship ring, but for what team?'"
Harris had one other consideration when working on the concept with the jeweler.
"I wanted it to be big," he said.
Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.