With six games remaining, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has a league-leading 15 technical fouls, which means that his next regular season technical will result in an automatic one-game suspension that could damage the team's standing in the Western Conference, Bryant's pocketbook -- and his chances of winning the league's most valuable player award.
Coach Phil Jackson said Bryant has recently been "playing under wraps" because another tantrum is "going to cost the team. It's going to cost him."
Bryant has held his tongue, walked the other way or used another, more confusing means to voice his frustrations to officials. "I just cuss them out really bad in Serbian," Bryant joked.
Bryant said he has learned how to swear in the native languages of teammates Vladimir Radmanovic (Serbia), Sasha Vujacic (Slovenia) and Ronny Turiaf (France). "I've been cursing in French. French is really cool, because everything sounds good in French." . . .
Entering the weekend, the top eight teams in the Western Conference were separated by less than seven games. Since the NBA expanded to the current 16-team playoff format in 1983-84, the smallest separation between the top eight teams in one conference was eight games in 2002-03. That season, the Eastern Conference's top-seeded Detroit Pistons had 50 wins, compared to the No. 8 Orlando Magic, which had 42. Fifth-seeded New Orleans finished just three games out of first.