Kobe Bryant gets 13th technical

SAN ANTONIO -- The Orlando Magic are going to be without superstar Dwight Howard on Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers as the center serves a league-mandated one-game suspension for picking up technical foul No. 16 of the season earlier in the week.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant could be next.

After San Antonio's Manu Ginobili fouled Bryant with 2:54 remaining in the second quarter of the Lakers' 99-83 win Sunday, Bryant had something to say to Ginobili and was promptly hit with a technical foul.

It was Bryant's 13th technical foul of the season. He is three technicals away from being assessed a one-game suspension and the Lakers have 18 regular-season games left to play. Technical foul totals are reset when the playoffs begin.

"I don't know what happened," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson after the game. "I don't know if it was warranted or what the call was, but he does have to watch his activity level out there."

Bryant has averaged one tech every 4.9 games played this season with the 13 technical fouls he's collected in 64 games played (not counting the two T's rescinded by the league). If he keeps up his current pace he would pick up technical No. 16 by the time L.A. plays in Portland on April 8 and potentially be suspended for the Lakers' game against Oklahoma City on April 10.

Bryant has come precariously close to the 16-technical suspension mark before without crossing the threshold. He was whistled for 14 technical fouls last season, fourth-most in the league. In 2008-09 he was called for 11 and the season before that he picked up a league-leading 15 technicals.

The NBA made it a point of emphasis for officials to call technical fouls for "overt" player reactions to referee calls coming into this season.

Jackson said that the rate of technicals called returned to normal after the first 2-4 weeks of the regular season, but was discouraged by the technical totals catching up to players while their teams are in the midst of playoff races.

"We're going to lose some players obviously in this stretch down here," Jackson said. "You just don't want to lose players that are really important at this point in the season."

Jackson first addressed the issue Friday and called it "a problem."
Ron Artest, who has had his own run-ins with referees in the past, played peacemaker Sunday by pushing Bryant away from Ginobili to prevent the situation from escalating.

When Artest was asked if he became involved in the play because he knew about Bryant's growing number of technicals on the season, Artest simply said, "He can afford it."

While Bryant can undoubtedly foot the bill without his wallet taking too big of a hit, technical fouls have become more expensive this season. Players and coaches are now docked $2,000 for each of their first five technical fouls. The cost rises to $3,000 for the next five, followed by $4,000 for Nos. 11-15. Starting at 16, players are suspended one game and then another game for every two technicals, along with a $5,000 fine for each.

Other players coming close to facing suspension are New York's Amare Stoudemire (15 technicals), Carmelo Anthony (12) and Chauncey Billups (11); Charlotte's Stephen Jackson (14) and Boston's Kevin Garnett (10).

Jackson said he has also received a league memo warning him and his team to expedite the time they take coming out of huddles during timeouts. Taking too long could warrant a technical foul under the league's guidelines.

"We've been notified once to do that, but we haven't got a tech yet,: Jackson said. "I'm usually a guy that's pretty long. I don't like to try and scream over those loud speaker systems that they got going on in this league. The Lakers are pretty calm and collected in their home court, but a lot of these towns like to ramp it up. I don't want to lose my voice."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.