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Andrew Bynum's flagrant on Gerald Wallace: Suspension coming?

January 28, 2009 |  1:27 pm

If you missed it, here's the vid, and the call from the Lakers' broadcast team. Andrew Bynum literally Andrew_bynum_fouls_gerald_wallace sent Charlotte's Gerald Wallace to the hospital Tuesday night with a violent flagrant foul in the fourth quarter of LA's 117-110 double OT loss to the Bobcats at Staples. Writes the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell:

"After 21 years of covering the NBA, I think I know the difference between rugged and dirty.

What Andrew Bynum did to Gerald Wallace Tuesday was dirty.

Bynum, a gigantic athlete for the Los Angeles Lakers, threw a blatant elbw and hip-check to keep Wallace from reaching the basket in the fourth quarter. I get it that every play in that quarter mattered – it did go to overtime, after all – but there were many things Bynum could have done to avert Wallace dunking. Most of them would not have involved Wallace going to the hospital.

Hopefully, this was about youthful indiscretion, not malicious intent. Because as talented as Bynum is, I’d hate to think his destiny is to end up a hockey goon."

After the game, Bynum said he was late with his rotation and wasn't trying to hurt Wallace, and I believe him.  Unfortunately, that's not really the point. Serious damage was done on what was clearly a dangerous play. Which leads to two questions: Should Bynum be subject to disciplinary action from the league, and should the fact that Wallace was injured- he's in the hospital with a punctured lung and a broken rib- influence the outcome?

I had this debate for a few minutes after the game with AK and a couple other members of the media- given the late finish, nobody had too much time for chatter- and came down on the side of "yes" to both questions, especially after seeing the replay a few more times.

Like I said, I don't think it was Bynum's intent to injure anyone, but his play was very dangerous. A hip check combined with a elbow to the chest on a player in the air. There was no effort at all to play the ball. When I played hockey growing up, as a defenseman I used that move all the time on forwards rushing the net who had a step... and it wasn't legal there, either.  If the league decided that was worth a game on the sidelines, honestly, I wouldn't argue.  (There are probably fouls out there that are equally worthy that won't bring a suspension, but I'm not writing about consistency from the disciplinary wing of NBA HQ, just whether or not Bynum's foul seems bad enough to warrant some sort of action. "What about ______?!?!?!" may be a good discussion, but it's a different argument that can be played endlessly and distracts from the basic question of the individual play.)

As to the second point, should the resulting injury play into any decision?  I I think so.  If a guy gets hurt on a dangerous, reckless play that goes beyond the scope of normal action, then yes, the severity of injury can be a factor. If I run a stop sign, it's reckless and I can get a ticket, even if I didn't mean any harm, or I didn't see the posting. If I run it and injure someone, that penalty is more severe.  If I kill someone, the penalty goes up even more.  That I didn't mean harm doesn't make my actions any less dangerous.  Of course, if a player commits a flagrant foul that doesn't result in injury but is still equally violent, that shouldn't exclude the fouler from discipline, either. 

Look, I won't be dialing up Stu Jackson and calling for action. I doubt they'd pick up for me, anyway. But if the league hands Bynum a (reasonable) suspension, I won't argue the point. If that had happened to Kobe coming down the lane, Laker fans would be screaming for blood. 

Either way, we're likely to know relatively quickly, since the league tends to act fast in situations like this one.