Lakers center Andrew Bynum challenges a shot by Rockets center Samuel Dalembert… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
In between quarters, Andrew Bynum rested his legs and received some words of wisdom.
He could've aptly described it as "getting his Zen on," as he did last week on why he doesn't participate in team huddles. But this had nothing to do with meditating or thinking about former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. It had everything to do with following a simple piece of advice during the Lakers-Rockets game. He had picked up a technical foul late in the third quarter and the Lakers coaching staff feared he'd get another.
"We talked to him when he went back out there at the start of the quarter and we told him you have one technical," Lakers Coach Mike Brown recalled. "Don't pick up your second."
Too bad he did. With 11:17 left in the fourth quarter, Bynum converted on a two-foot turnaround hook shot and then talked trash with the Rockets bench. He immediately earned another technical, leaving the Lakers without their star center in what amounted to a 112-107 loss Friday to Houston.
The short-term ramifications: the Lakers (35-21) remain 5 1/2 games behind San Antonio (39-14) and Oklahoma City (40-15) and hold only a 1 1/2 game lead over the Clippers (33-22) for third place in the Western Conference.
The long term ramiifications: Bynum's latest transgressions adds just yet another example where he's remained defiant with no signs suggesting he'll stop. Two weeks ago, he earned an ejection against Houston for arguing with officials. Brown benched him last week for taking an ill-advised three-pointer against Golden State. Bynum remained disrespectful toward Brown by revealing he doesn't participate in huddles and his plans on taking more three-pointers. Though Brown said he will handle Bynum's latest ejection "internally," it remains to be seen what that would entail. Meanwhile, Bynum didn't talk with reporters so it was up to his teammates to speak for him. They unanimously say Bynum needs to temper his emotions, while stressing they'll remain patient with him.
"The key is to find the balance," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "You don't want him to lose that edge or lose that rage that he's playing with. You want him to find a good balance where it doesn't take him over the top."
Bynum found that tranquility before the game. He sat at his locker with his legs encased in black contraptions that looked like ski boots. As he remained attached to the device designed to reduce swelling in his legs, Bynum largely ignored the numerous reporters around him while listening to rap music, including Jay-Z,Lil' Wayneand Young Jeezy.
He hardly looked composed on the court, though.
With 1:18 left in the third quarter, Bynum nearly confronted Houston center Samuel Dalembert after he was pushed from behind. Thankfully for the Lakers, forward Josh McRoberts stepped in and prevented Bynum from getting in a physical altercation with Dalembert.
"I saw him get up and he was kind of upset," McRoberts said. "I just grabbed him so he wouldn't run over there. I tried to keep him from getting a tech but I might have made it worse. We need him in the game. I didn't want him to get a tech."
But Bynum did. He earned a technical foul on that sequence and then in the fourth quarter. Just when it appeared Bynum's 19 points on six-of-11 shooting would help carry the Lakers to their fifth consecutive win, his absence played a large part in the Lakers' loss.
"He knows that's one he wishes he didn't have," Lakers guard Ramon Sessions said. "We need him down the stretch."
That leaves the Lakers trying to come to grips with how to handle Bynum.
Bryant remained confident Bynum can temper his emotions in time for the playoffs on April 28. He plans to talk with him about that issue, but doesn't believe Bynum needs a "heart to heart sitdown type of situation." And Bryant made it clear "I'm not concerned" about whether Bynum's behavior will continue.
Bryant's co-captain in Pau Gasol reiterated as much.
"We talk to anybody we believe might have an issue," he said. "Obviously you also have to let Andrew be himself. As much as you talk to him, it's not beneficial. You have to be careful. It's hard and it's a judgement call. But he'll be fine."
Yet, it remains to be seen if the Lakers' continual respect toward Bynum will work since he hasn't given that respect in return.
"Picking up a second technical and getting kicked out of the game, he leaves his teammates out there," Brown said. "Call it whatever you want to call it. But it's not right."
Photos: Lakers vs. Rockets
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Kobe Bryant sits out Friday shootaround; Ramon Sessions' shoulder is sprained