This whole conversation obviously started with Andrew Bynum’s terrible hit on J.J. Barea on Sunday during the final period of a blowout loss at the hands of Dallas. Less than a minute after teammate Lamar Odom was ejected for a flagrant foul, Bynum took out his frustration on the diminutive Barea, elbowing him hard in the side as he was in the air, laying the ball in the basket.
We all saw what happened, so I don’t need to lay out all the details for you.
The latest problem with the hit, though, is how the NBA handled it. They decided to fine Bynum $25,000 for taking his shirt off while leaving the floor and suspend him for 5 games. We’re talking about the largest guy on either team (7-feet-0, 285 pounds) intentionally wiping out the smallest guy on either team (6-feet-0, 175 pounds) while he was in a completely defenseless position. Would you have been shocked if Barea didn’t finish the game? Had to miss the rest of the playoffs? Suffered a concussion? Broke his wrist, arm, or a vertebrae on the landing?
It’s the most dangerous situation in all of basketball for many reasons—their difference in size, hitting someone not expected it, the victim was at the apex of his jump after a sprinting drive—and the NBA completely missed the opportunity to send a message that this is unacceptable.
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But that’s only part of the story. There’s also Bynum wiping out Michael Beasley on March 18. It’s a similar situation, wherein the much larger Bynum makes no play on the ball and takes out an airborne opponent. Beasley sank the free throws to give Minnesota the lead with six minutes left, but he couldn’t continue playing. The Timberwolves’ second-leading scorer wasn’t himself in their next two contests (less minutes, less points, poor shooting and play overall). Bynum received a two-game suspension for this action. I’ll go out on a limb and say that short of a suspension obviously didn’t get the message through to the big Laker considering he did something much worse less than two months later when his team was losing by 32 points.
His two atrocious hits on airborne players this season aren’t his first go-around with this sort of behavior. If you’ll remember, Bynum dropped an airborne Gerald Wallace two seasons ago with a vicious elbow to the side. Again the player was considerably smaller than Bynum. Again they were in the air at the end of a drive. Again Bynum made no play on the ball. Wallace suffered a collapsed lung and a fractured rib. He missed the next seven games, during which the Bobcats went on a 5-game losing streak. Bynum’s punishment? Nothing. He finished the game and was never suspended.
It’s great that everyone is in love with Bynum’s electronics hobby and subsequently see him as a really thoughtful guy who would never do any of this on purpose. Except he’s done terribly reckless things without making plays on the ball on multiple occasions. At least when he crashed down on Kendrick Perkins from behind in last year’s Finals Game Six, he was going for the ball; it was reckless and knocked Perkins out of the series, paving the way for Pau Gasol to rule Games Six and Seven, but at least he was making a play for the ball. Bynum is huge and can’t just knock airborne players to the ground. The message obviously hasn’t gotten through to him yet. And 5 games certainly won’t do it, either.
After showing a pattern of recklessly dangerous behavior that has knocked multiple opponents out of numerous games, Bynum needs to miss at least 10 games. Those double digits work on a psychological level, plus it's a big enough chunk that he's actually out of the loop for more than just a week-and-a-half. The league wanted to crack down on fighting and did so by putting real suspensions and fines in place.
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What Bynum has been up to is far more dangerous than two guys punching each other while no one else jumps in because they're scared of the fines and suspensions. Players should not be taking each other out in the air. If it's up to me, Bynum should sit a quarter of a season (20 games). Players will learn quick that if they're going to engage an airborne opponent, they better be making a legitimate play on the ball. It will end Bynum's nonsense, plus recent atrocities like this and this.