Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum is no saint, but the shockingly stupid criticism that the L.A. Times has peppered him with over the last two days is sort of hilarious. Well, scratch that. It would be hilarious if the folks down there were joking – which it doesn’t appear they are.
During Thursday night’s Lakers versus New York Knicks showdown on TNT, the commentators made mention of the fact that Bynum was finally due back from his four-game suspension in L.A.’s next outing against the Denver Nuggets. They briefly talked about what a boost he would provide to a squad that seemed to be on a roll as of late, and the many advantages he offers just by virtue of his massive presence.
But then the train went off its tracks.
Shortly after noting that Bynum would take a huge load off Kobe Bryant’s shoulders, the commentators began to talk about the young big man as if he were Terrell Owens. They alluded to a few L.A. Times articles citing his recent traffic violations as indicators that he has, get this, a sense of entitlement. Then they mentioned a looming T.J. Simers article that would supposedly refer to Bynum as a cancer.
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For what it’s worth, Simers didn’t refer to Bynum as a cancer in his bitter account of how the youngster wouldn’t grant him an interview, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The damage was already done, either way, because the commentators said what they said on a nationally televised game. So, essentially, despite the fact that they were partially wrong and partially referring to woefully stupid reports, the lasting impression anyone watching yesterday would have walked with is that Bynum is a troublemaker and cancer ripping the Lakers to shreds from within because of his supposed sense of entitlement.
Now, let’s take a few steps back and go to that first L.A. Times article that delves into Bynum’s so-called sense of entitlement. Here are the bits and pieces that jump out from the piece:
“Just as he's serving punishment for acting in an immature manner, Lakers center Andrew Bynum provided another example that indicates he still hasn't grown up…this illustrates how Bynum's sense of entitlement remains strong…surely the Lakers' concern that Bynum's speeding only adds further risk to him possibly suffering another injury again…as far as practical, off-court matters, Bynum clearly has lots to learn. And if his recent behind-the-wheel incidents are any indication, he still has a long way to go.”
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So to recap: Bynum got back-to-back tickets recently for speeding, driving without a license plate and having improper lighting equipment. Last summer Bynum was spotted parking in handicap parking spots once or twice. And, of course, he’s currently serving a suspension for clobbering part-time guard and full-time Santa’s Little Helper J.J. Barea in last year’s embarrassing second-round series versus the Dallas Mavericks.
Add all that stuff together and, apparently, it equals Bynum having an inflated sense of entitlement. Or something.
Of course, it could also mean that much like everyone else who lives in Los Angeles, Bynum just doesn’t pay as much attention as he should to driving and vehicle maintenance rules. I’m no psychologist but maybe, just maybe, judging a 24-year-old based on non-DUI driving problems isn’t the best way of doing things.
As far as what happened with Barea; it’s not as black-and-white as the situation often gets made out to be. Bynum behaved inappropriately, there is no denying that. At the same time, he committed a hard foul out of frustration because his team was repeatedly getting burned by a Mavericks uniform-adorned lawn gnome. If Barea didn’t weigh 85 pounds, the blow wouldn’t have looked as bad as it did. Plus, what ever happened to all those analysts who constantly say that when someone is consistently embarrassing you, you put him on his butt? Remember when Charles Barkley said that about Kobe when he lit up the Toronto Raptors for 81? Doesn’t everyone supposedly miss the ‘80s when hard fouls were commonplace?
Besides, Bynum got hit with a suspension. Rules violated, punishment delivered. Bynum apologized. Barea accepted. End of story.
I’ve never condoned child abuse and I won’t start with Bynum’s cheap shot on Barea, but let’s keep things in perspective.
Now we can move on to Simers’ highly-awaited column describing his latest attempts to stalk an L.A. athlete that wants to have nothing to do with him. Take it away, T.J.:
“And yet for the past six years I've been the guy's biggest advocate, everyone else wanting him shipped off…But no more. It's become pretty clear this guy doesn't care what anyone thinks of him, or where he parks…There's nothing appealing about an entitled athlete who really doesn't have much more to offer than the fact God gave him the size to earn millions the rest of his life because of the value placed on big people in this sport…I spent a lot of time trying to get to know Bynum last season, mining for something that might suggest he was going to be as special as I thought…”
Translation from Simers-speak: Over the course of my non-stop mission to bash Kobe Bryant throughout the last five years, I’ve propped up Andrew Bynum on many occasions. [Reference to single daughter and pesky wife]. He’s been a great tool to hit Kobe over the head with, but now he won’t acknowledge me. [Reference to single daughter and pesky wife]. He won’t give me an interview. Woe is me. [Reference to single daughter and pesky wife]. I hate all L.A. superstars. [Reference to single daughter and pesky wife]. They’re all horrible people. [Reference to single daughter and pesky wife].
Simers’ issue with Bynum appears to be about as stupid as the one his co-worker presented, only in slightly more bitter form. Imagine, this whole crisis could have been averted if only Bynum had given Simers a few moments of his time for an interview. Then the Grinch of page 2 could have reserved his valuable word space for continuing to verbally destroy Kobe.
Look, far be it from me to get on anyone’s case for trying to stir up mindless, pointless controversy for attention. I’d sell vital organs for a monthly page views boost. But pick your battles, kids. Bynum getting two vehicle infractions in a two-day span doesn’t mean that he isn’t fit for Lakers stardom, it just means that he’s much more of an Angeleno than we ever gave him credit for.
Tune in next week when the L.A. Times writers analyze whether or not Kobe's new German knee will have a dominant role in saving the Euro.