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Andrew Bynum Apologizes To J.J. Barea

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ANDREW BYNUM
Andrew Bynum | Getty File Photo/Harry How

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Andrew Bynum wishes he could take back his flagrant foul on Dallas guard J.J. Barea during the Los Angeles Lakers' final playoff game, a mistake that got him suspended for five games next season.

Pau Gasol would like a do-over on the entire postseason after his veteran team finally ran out of steam.

The Lakers began their offseason with most players' exit interviews at their training complex Tuesday. Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson will wrap up on Wednesday.

While Bynum expressed remorse for his costly cheap-shot foul and Derek Fisher looked toward a busy summer as the players' union president, general manager Mitch Kupchak asked soul-searching questions about why the two-time defending champs were swept out of the second round by the Mavericks.

"We just never really imagined being in this situation and speaking to these guys under these circumstances," Fisher said. "This one definitely hurts. This one will be with us for a while. ... We've been forced to take a close look in the mirror, and I think we're going to come back and respond."

Gasol likely had the most questions to answer after his scoring and rebounding averages and shooting percentage all declined precipitously in the playoffs.

"Our execution was inconsistent throughout the series," Gasol said. "We just got away from the keys and elements of our offense and our game. They were adding up to the point where it seemed like we barely knew each other at the last game. It's an experience we all should learn from."

Gasol averaged just 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds in Los Angeles' 10 playoff games, taking much of the heat for the Lakers' struggles from incensed fans. They've flooded talk-radio stations and websites calling for his departure in the past 48 hours, causing Gasol to roll his eyes when told about it.

The All-Star 7-footer didn't directly address widespread rumors that trouble in his personal life contributed to his poor play, but said his girlfriend "has been taking hits which are absolutely false, all those stories."

"The thing that makes me the angriest is me not playing at my best, and me not being able to help my team accomplish its goals," Gasol said. "That's what makes me the angriest. The rest of the stuff, you can brush it off. It's not really that big of a deal."

Most players recognized the signs of their decline in hindsight, notably the draining toll of playing 77 postseason games in the past four years. The Lakers' lengthy losing streaks, unimpressive home play and general lack of passion all caught up to them in the postseason when they couldn't immediately raise their intensity to match hungrier opponents.

"This wasn't an overnight thing," Fisher said. "It happened over time. Some of it is just a part of making the run that we've made for the last three or four seasons, the number of games we've played over the last four or five years. In a sense, we were set up to have a fall at some point, but I don't think any of us imagined falling in this way."

Bynum echoed Fisher's thoughts about the cumulative effect of their success, but from another angle: He thinks Los Angeles had trouble connecting on the court because the players rarely were all together in practice.

Bryant, Bynum, Fisher and other veterans routinely skipped practice to rest their worn-down bodies. Bryant rarely practiced while playing through numerous injuries all season, including a sprained ankle in the first round of the playoffs.

"We have to practice," Bynum said. "I can't address anyone's health. I haven't been the most healthy person, but I do know that in order to win, we need to practice. We need to be out there going through things together. That's just the way that is. That's the main thing that I see that was different from the last two years. Our practice just wasn't the same."

The Lakers also expressed uniform regret for sending Jackson into his latest retirement with a four-game sweep, although they covered most of those feelings while it was still fresh in Dallas.

"It was very, very frustrating, and I apologized to him face-to-face," said backup guard Shannon Brown, who hasn't decided whether to exercise his $2.4 million player option for next season. "I told him that that was a terrible way ... for him to go out, and I really felt bad for him. I really can't put it into words how disappointed, upset, embarrassed, frustrated we really were. It still hurts."

The Lakers generally endorse assistant coach Brian Shaw as their choice to replace Jackson, but realize their mistakes may have hurt his candidacy in the eyes of owner Jerry Buss. Fisher said he's "hopeful that Brian will get the opportunity, even if it isn't here."

Not everybody had only rose-colored thoughts about Jackson. Forward Luke Walton said he "cleared the air" with Jackson after spending most of the season rotting on the bench, unable to crack Jackson's second-team rotation. Walton is due $11.78 million over the next two seasons.

The Lakers were noncommittal about the need for big changes in the offseason, realizing it isn't up to them. Ron Artest was among the players who believe that with a little rest and a renewed attitude, this core could contend for a title again.

"This year was unfortunate, but I'd be more than happy to go to battle with these guys again," Artest said. "I don't think you've seen the last of the Lakers."

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