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Daniel Hernandez

Daniel Hernandez

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Andrew Bynum's Flagrant Issues

Posted: 05/10/11 06:19 PM ET

"Egregious and inexcusable."

"Shameful ... stupid, irresponsible, dangerous."

"Dirty and unnecessary ... classless ... repulsive and without any valid excuse."

Those are the words Los Angeles Lakers beat writers and bloggers used to describe Laker big man Andrew Bynum's now infamous flagrant foul on diminutive Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea.

Bynum has been the target of a lot venom over the past 24 hours. His name was a trending topic on twitter last night where the comments were a lot less civil.

And how bad was the foul? For those that somehow missed it, in a historic rout that embarrassed one of the most successful teams in professional sports, J.J. Barea, "the smallest guy on the court" as Bynum accurately described him, had the audacity to attempt a lay-up while his team was comfortably ahead in a playoff game at home. Bynum retaliated with a forearm shiver to Barea's ribs while he was in midair. Barea flew sideways and fell to the floor like a limp rag doll. He stayed down for several moments wincing in pain. Bynum was ejected immediately and removed his jersey as he walked off the floor with cold indifference.

Fortunately Barea was not hurt. But the fact that this is not the first time Bynum has made a football play on a basketball court leaves one wondering when, or if, he will kick the habit of committing dirty, dangerous fouls.

Or to put it more bluntly: How long will it be before this happens again and someone suffers a career ending injury?

A similar elbow and hip check from Bynum left Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace in the hospital two seasons ago with a fractured rib and partially collapsed lung.

Just two months ago, Bynum also shoulder checked Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley as the second-year player ascended to the basket. That hit knocked Beasley sideways and he fell hard on his shoulder. Bynum was suspended two games over the incident. But did he learn his lesson? The hockey check to Barea yesterday suggests that he did not. Nor does he have much remorse.

"I'm not disappointed in myself. It is what it is," Bynum told reporters in the locker room afterward. "We got embarrassed tonight, so that's what happened."

That sounds more like a threat to future opponents than it does an apology.

Meanwhile, Bynum's embarrassed teammate Derrick Fisher told the Orange County Register that this is "not something we teach" and Kobe Bryant called it "ugly" before saying he hoped Bynum would learn from the mistake.

That seems unlikely. And if another elbow check sends a player to the hospital or causes a life-altering injury then who knows how things will unfold. Charges could be filed the way they were against NHL star Todd Burtuzzi when he ended Steve Moore's career with a blatant sucker punch.

Either way, Laker Nation deserves Bynum's apology. It has been quick to disown his recent lapse into poor sportsmanship as cheap and indefensible. Indeed, Laker fan or not, it's hard to argue that, like all great sports franchises, Laker teams typically show great discipline, pride and respect for the game and how it is meant to be played. For the moment there is an asterisk on that legacy. Hopefully Bynum's unhinged behavior doesn't damage it permanently.

UPDATE: In his first press encounter since Sunday night, Bynum expressed regret over the incident. From Lakers.com:

"Number one, I want to apologize for my actions at the start of the 4th quarter in Dallas in Game 4. They don't represent me, my upbringing, this franchise, or any of the Laker fans out there that want to watch us and watch us succeed. Furthermore and more importantly, I want to actually apologize to J.J. Barea for doing that. I'm just glad he wasn't seriously injured in the event, and all I could say is, I looked at it, it's terrible and it definitely won't happen again."
 

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