Mar 21, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) waves to the crowd as he leaves the court during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Lakers defeated the Mavericks 109-93. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
A bizarre three-point attempt reminded us all how perplexingly the talented young center sometimes behaves, but Planet Laker just keeps spinning.
All right, let's just admit it. We overreacted. In the heat of a game the Lakers should've been crushing but weren't, Andrew Bynum's perplexing three-point attempt in the third quarter Tuesday night, and his infuriating behavior on the sidelines after his benching by Mike Brown, sent most Laker fans to their fainting couches. In the moment, the sequence of events inflamed several of our collective fears all at once. Does Mike Brown have control over the team? Was the shot a passive-aggressive gesture of defiance toward Kobe Bryant, who's been known to take an ill-advised three at the expense of Drew's touches? Would this sort of thing had happened if Derek Fisher were still around? Can we ever trust Andrew Bynum to behave like a normal human being?
Wednesday was a practice day for the Lake Show. With time to reflect and a victory in Oakland under their belts despite the dramatics, everyone in Lakerdom thought about the whole thing and seemed to conclude, "Whatever, man." Brown rightly stood by his decision to park Drew on his ass, declaring, "If I feel like a guy is not playing the right way for our team, I'll make a change." Bynum himself had nothing to say, which is probably just as well. Kobe, in a nice bit of peacekeeping, chalked the whole thing up to youthful rebellion:
The edginess and the chippiness of him makes it very easy for me to relate to him because I had some of that when I was young. I understand where he's coming from. That's why it's not that big of a deal to me. You don't see me sitting here tripping or sweating or anything like that. I've been there.
That's the nice thing about playing (or rooting) for an organization that's in a near-constant state of commotion. People quickly learn to shrug away the small stuff. Which isn't to say that Mike Brown overreacted in the least. Bynum's three was idiotic, and his effort in every phase of the game was appalling. If players aren't being held accountable in an immediate and direct way, there's not much point in having a head coach. Mike Brown did what he had to do. The rest of us got a little worked up.
Look, we know certain things about Andrew Bynum. We know he's a smart guy. We know he's an intellectually curious guy. (He builds his own computers, people.) But we also know that he's immature, if we're being generous, or kind of a jerk, if we're not. From rehabbing his knee at the Playboy Mansion to parking in handicapped spots to clobbering point guards and getting himself suspended for the first four games of the season, Bynum has a special talent for mischief. For the most part his mistakes have been minor, but over time a pattern of jackassery has snapped into place. Clearly, the guy is an imperfect human being and teammate, and it's entirely possible we'll have to deal with this sort of thing until his Laker career is over. This might be just who he is. If that's the case, the front office and coaching staff will have to manage him with tough love, coaxing out of him the good (his increasingly dominant on-court form) and minimizing the bad (the rest of this nonsense). No need to pity Mike Brown here. He doesn't get paid over $4 million a year because coaching the Lakers is easy and fun. This is the job, and he knew as much when he took it.
We should, however, remind ourselves that Bynum maybe isn't a finished product. I know, that sounds like excuse-making for someone who should know better, and I empathize with my colleague C.A. Clark when he wrote yesterday at Silver Screen and Roll:
I'm done with Andrew Bynum.... There are literally no excuses left for Andrew Bynum to use. He's not remorseful whenever he does something stupid, like trying to kill J.J. Barea, or deciding to jack up a three with 14 seconds left in the shot clock in last night's game. He doesn't learn from his mistakes; he keeps doing the same stupid things, usually with escalating significance and premeditation (see his history of hard fouls). And now, he's decided to treat a professional game of basketball as his own personal Jackass video. Tune in next week when he takes his pants off and runs around center court in a sparkly thong.
The man is right. We should be past this sort of thing by now. Drew's been in the league for over six seasons, and he's still pulling this minor-league crap? Enough is enough.
But the guy is just 24 years old. As much as we admire the Tim Duncans and Kevin Durants of the NBA, superstars who seem to emerge from the draft with wholly formed veteran personas, most people are still figuring things out in their mid-20's. Shaquille O'Neal went through his immature phase, when it was widely doubted whether he could command a title-winning team. Kobe Bryant, too. As the seasons piled up for those guys, their judgment sharpened and for the most part they stopped serving as their own worst enemies. There's still plenty of time left for Bynum to follow that arc. One hopes he puts it to good use.
Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.