This hardly ranks as Andrew Bynum's favorite Christmas gift.
Nothing will ever replace the Hot Wheels cars he received as a young kid. But Bynum receiving a reduced suspension from five games to four because of the NBA's shortened schedule serves as a nice stocking stuffer. Bynum, who received the initial suspension in May after delivering a forearm at guard Jose Barea in a playoff game against Dallas, sounded hardly surprised about the decision. He still considered the suspension "tough."
"The only reason it was reduced was because the season itself is shorter," Bynum said, referring to the NBA's 66-game schedule, a 19.5% reduction from a typical 82-game season. "It makes sense, mathematically."
As for the Lakers, they all responded in their own way. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant let out a nonchalant "yippee" when asked about the news. Lakers Coach Mike Brown jokingly pumped his fist in delight and enthusiastically shouted, "Way to go NBA!" And Lakers guard Derek Fisher made it clear his role as the National Basketball Players Assn. president played no role in ensuring Bynum a reduced suspension.
"Just like for the NBA, there can be sometimes conflicts of interest," Fisher said in a subtle dig toward the league nixing the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets from trading Chris Paul to the Lakers. "Individual situations, I have to be very careful about getting mixed up in those things."
Bynum will return to the Lakers' lineup Dec. 31 against the Denver Nuggets instead of a New Year's Day appearance at Denver's Pepsi Center. But that doesn't exactly wipe out some of the challenges the Lakers face. Bynum can't be present at any of the Lakers' four games and will make up for lost time by running on the treadmill and receiving extra coaching from assistant Darvin Ham. Forward Pau Gasol will also slide in at center, while Josh McRoberts will assume the power forward spot.
"I'm happy to have Andrew next to me for as many games as possible," Gasol said. "We're a very dangerous couple in there. I'm looking forward to playing with him. But obviously we won't have him the first four games. We'll have to manage and fight through whatever we're facing."
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Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum leads with his forearm and elbow as he meets Mavericks point guard Jose Barea at the rim on a driving layup in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 8, 2011