Make no mistake about it, the only embarrassing thing about the way the Los Angeles Lakers ultimately ended their series against the Dallas Mavericks -- a painful-to-watch 122-86 massacre -- was the final score. The lack of heart for much of the series and the whimper with which the two-time defending champions went out deserves the headlines, not the frustration-fueled errors in judgment by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum.
Late in the fourth quarter, as Dirk Nowitzki drove the ball down the court, he was met with a brutal shot from Odom. The latter got booted from the game immediately, and all remained calm for about two seconds until Bynum absolutely leveled J.J. Barea as the little Maverick that could glided to the basket. Bynum’s move, for anyone that wasn’t able to catch it -- or the 50 million replays that ABC subsequently showed -- was eerily reminiscent of the cheap shots he threw at Gerald Wallace and Michael Beasley at one point in time.
Immediately, the floodgates opened and the criticism poured in from all possible directions. The announcers called the move bush league. The fans screamed for Bynum’s head. Even Charles Oakley, Charles freakin’ Oakley, decided to comment on his problem with what happened.
The inherent hypocrisy of the people representing the NBA, fans and ex-players never ceases to disappoint.
Every single time a particular team is getting murdered by an opposing player, all you ever hear is how the team on the wrong side of the equation should do something about it. Get physical, the announcers and talking heads that represent the league always say. Put that player on his rear end, the token ex-player and/or coach screams in disgust.
But when a player actually heeds to the advice of guys like Jeff Van Gundy, Charles Barkley and the ten million other league reps who have urged for players to be more physical, they become instant pariahs.
Fans are no better. On and on the so-called “purists” of the game always go about how today’s players are all glitz and no grit. All style and no toughness. Then, whenever a player actually shows grittiness or shows toughness, they don’t even bother exhaling before jumping up, wagging their finger and starting to condemn.
And Oakley, I won’t even touch that one. A player who made his bones in this league by serving as Michael Jordan’s personal enforcer because of how badly other teams owned his boy wants to talk dirty plays?
Give me a break.
It’s high time for the NBA, fans and desperate-for-attention has-beens to make their position clear. If you don’t like dirty play, stop glorifying it. Stop saying that the 80s were better because the league was tough and men were men. Don’t talk about the Bad Boy Pistons with such fondness. Don’t say that players like Kobe Bryant would never drop 81 on your team because you would’ve planted their butt on the ground before that could ever happen.
Were Bynum’s actions ideal? No. Did it look far worse than it really was because Barea weighs 95 pounds soaking wet? Yes. Was it a less-than-stellar way to go out on national television? Obviously.
But let’s not act like the Lakers big man committed some sort of heinous crime. He gave a hard foul in an environment that practically begs for those kinds of actions. He made a mistake. Oh well. Move on.
Not that anyone will. Crying about the faults of others all the while ignoring the context and cause is what sports analysis is all about these days.