Andrew Bynum misguided for simply thinking he committed a hard foul against Michael Beasley
The replay presented enough evidence for Lakers center Andrew Bynum to apologize to Minnesota forward Michael Beasley.
As Beasley cut toward the baseline, Bynum stepped in on help defense, extended his right forearm and sent Beasley to the ground. Bynum wouldn't comment on the incident after his flagrant foul type 2 earned him an ejection in the Lakers' 106-98 victory last week over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Nor would he say anything publicly about the incident until following Wednesday's practice after serving a two-game suspension. But seeing the highlight at least convinced Bynum enough he needed to say something to Beasley.
"I just sent him a text saying it was my fault and just seeing if he was all right," Bynum said of Beasley, who left the game because of an injured left hip but didn't miss any games afterwards. "Just because of the way he fell when he watched the replay. I didn't want the guy to get hurt."
But that's the only extent to which Bynum really felt any remorse, a shame considering this incident really should've been a teachable moment for the 23-year-old center. It should've highlighted better understanding on knowing the difference between playing tough and playing off emotions. Instead Bynum revealed after Wednesday's practice that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and the team didn't address him at all about the foul. He strongly disagreed with the suspension. And he said he took nothing away of the incident other than using the time to improve his leg strength with rubber band exercises, squats, shuttle runs and calf raises.
"I got rest," Bynum said. "That's really it."
But it really isn't. The main question surrounding his return in the Lakers' (51-20) game Friday against the Clippers (28-44) hardly involves how he'll phase back into the lineup. They expect he can duplicate the 13 rebounds and 2.58 blocks per game he averaged since the All-Star break. Jackson said there wouldn't be an integration process, joking "this isn't Little Rock" where in 1957 Little Rock Central School slowly integrated African American students. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant laughed when saying Bynum's conditioning will be fine after missing two games because he's "12 years old." And Lakers forward Pau Gasol expressed delight that he doesn't have to log heavy minutes like he did in the past two games, including 52 in the Lakers' 139-137 triple overtime victory Tuesday over the Phoenix Suns.
But what's most worrisome about Bynum is his refusal to acknowledge his own frustration, something Jackson even conceded despite spending the last week passionately questioning the league's ruling.
"He carried a play from one end of the court to the other," Jackson said, referring to Bynum being called for an offensive foul on the previous possession. "We tried to talk to guys about that and that it's not important to do. Basketball is such a game that you have to let things go and move on to the next."
Bynum's only other flagrant foul entailed a hit on Gerald Wallace two years ago that sent him to the hospital. Bynum also often plays with an even-keeled attitude. So this previous incident won't suddenly morph Bynum into an enforcer. But with the Lakers barely a month away from the playoffs, Bynum needs to ensure he doesn't duplicate what he did to Beasley. Even if Bryant argued Bynum "earned his stripes" by wrongfully arguing he just committed a hard foul, Bynum needs to meet that newfound growth with responsibility. Instead, Bynum seems indifferent about it.
"I don't think what I did was deserving of it," Bynum said. "I don't think I did anything too wrong. It was unfortunate the guy fell the way he did and got hurt. At the end of the day, fouls happen. They tell us when the guy falls down, that's going to make it even worse. if he didn't leave the game or get hurt, it probably would've been different."
Not quite. The NBA rulebook actually states that their guidelines go beyond the severity of an opposing player's injury. Although that is a variable, the league office, according to NBA rules, also considers these factors as well in determining in determining whether to classify a foul flagrant 1 or 2, reclassify the flagrant foul and impose a fine and/or suspension: "how hard the foul was; the outcome of the foul (e.g., whether it led to an altercation)." Even if the Lakers argue Bynum wasn't trying to hurt Beasley, his body language suggested otherwise. He swung at Beasley with his right forearm at an angle showing he had no intention of swatting the ball away and every intention of leveling him.
"It was not a basketball play," Stu Jackson, in charge of player discipline as the NBA's executive vice president of basketball operations, told The Times' Mike Bresnahan, a reason why the league actually considered a three-game suspension. "There was a chance for Bynum to make a basketball play, but he led with his forearm on a play that was both dangerous and reckless because the player, [Michael] Beasley, was vulnerable in the air with no defense. The result of all of this was Beasley was injured and had to leave the game."
It's hard to say whether Bynum's argument that he did nothing wrong reflects his true thinking or if he just wants to put the issue behind him. But whether Bynum wants to admit it or not, he'll need to learn from this quickly. Other opposing players will surely test whether his bolstered toughness is legitimate. The officiating will likely change from series to series, perhaps even game to game. And there will be plenty of moments that will test his emotions.
"You have to think about it and you end up having to reflect on it," Jackson said. "He's an intelligent young man."
Hopefully for the Lakers, Bynum actually did that, an unsure sign considering his public comments suggest otherwise.
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