Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom tarnish successful individual seasons with cheap shots in Lakers' 122-86 Game 4 loss to Dallas Mavericks
With one dirty and unnecessary elbow to Dallas guard Jose Barea, Lakers center Andrew Bynum just wasted a season-long effort in avoiding a major injury, establishing a defensive identity and showing the dominance the organization envisioned he'd once own.
With one dirty and unnecessary shove with his shoulder into Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, Lakers forward Lamar Odom just wasted a season-long effort in playing at his most consistent, winning the NBA's sixth man of the year and continually earning the teams' respect as a positive locker-room presence.
Bynum and Odom might have acted out of frustration with the minutes waning in an eventual 122-86 Game 4 loss Sunday to the Dallas Mavericks that ended their season. They might have deviated from their normal character. And they might not have intended any harm on Nowitzki and Barea. But it doesn't matter. Their classless acts are repulsive and without any valid excuse.
Both have guaranteed contracts and represent a valuable piece to the Lakers. But with Magic Johnson's insistence that owner Jerry Buss "blow this team up" should the Lakers get swept, everyone outside of Kobe Bryant shouldn't be protected from trades and that they should do everything imaginable to obtain Magic center Dwight Howard, it's far from speculative that Odom's and Bynum's ejections will seriously dent their standing on the team.
That's a shame because, just like the Lakers' quest for a three-peat, this is not how it should have ended. Bynum was on his way to solidifying himself as one of the league's dominant centers, took large ownership of a Lakers' defense that largely spurred their 17-1 record following the All-Star break and appeared at his most healthy. Odom proved he was no longer the inconsistent player he had been for a large part of his career by becoming the team's most consistent player in the regular season, proved he could handle the potential distractions surrounding a reality television show with wife Khloe Kardashian and humbly accepted moving between starter and reserve.
After Bynum fielded criticism for missing the first 24 games of the season because he delayed his offseason surgery on his right knee so he could attend the World Cup, he proved the wait was worth it with a dependable force in the middle that arguably proved more valuable than Pau Gasol. After Odom faced uncertainty whether his experience in the 2010 FIBA World Championships would lead to burn out, he proved that experience helped him with his conditioning, leadership and hunger to win. And after ending the season the way they did?
Few will remember all the aforementioned accomplishments. With a long offseason awaiting the Lakers and a possible lockout looming, teammates, the organization and the general public will see countless replays of Odom shouldering Nowitzki and Bynum lunging with a forearm shiver at Barea. That aftermath might not be fair, it might not reflect their character and it might not describe their value to the team. But Bynum and Odom only have themselves to blame for that.
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Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest (15) escorts Andrew Bynum off the court after the center was ejected for a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Sunday in Dallas. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.