As Los Angeles Laker center Andrew Bynum made his post-ejection departure Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks, he removed his jersey as though he had just floored Mike Tyson in his prime. In actuality, he had just clothes-lined the Mayor of Munchkinland, also known as Dallas Mavericks backup point guard J.J. Berea. If Dorothy were still alive, she'd have been pissed.
Mavs fans were outraged, Lakers fans embarrassed. Even all-time cheap shot artist Kevin McHale had to be cringing. Okay, maybe not. McHale was a punk the caliber of former Piston Bill Laimbeer (still can't believe Laimbeer is Kurt Rambis's assistant in Minnesota -- I won't make an unfair analogy like the late bin Laden raking George Bush's yard, but you get it).
Bynum's lack of a sincere apology is equally bad behavior. These aren't the 1980's, and taking out frustrations on a guy who weighs less than Bynum's shoes is unacceptable.
Unfortunately, this is all agent David Lee's fault. Stay with me here.
For those of you who aren't familiar, Lee is a sports agent, who happens to represent Bynum, and former Laker Trevor Ariza.
In the summer of 2009, after the Lakers disposed of Orlando to win the title, the team wanted Ariza back for approximately $5.6 million to $6 million for the first year, with increases over the term of the contract, probably 5 years. Lee's asking price as negotiations kicked off was closer to $9 million. You know the outcome. Dr. Jerry Buss was dining with Ron Artest the next day, and when Lee wouldn't come down below $7 million, the agreement had been reached. Artest would be a Laker, and eventually, Ariza would sign a deal with the Houston Rockets that he basically could have had to stay in his hometown Los Angeles.
We know Artest won a citizenship award this season, and what he did off the court was truly a turnaround from his Indiana days. He's also improved his on-court demeanor. But Artest couldn't stand being thought of as a good citizen for long. He started this by hooking Berea's face at the end of Game 2 in Los Angeles. The league suspended Artest for crucial Game 3, and the Lakers missed his intensity in the fourth quarter.
Lamar Odom grew up with RonRon, and you have to be believe was somewhat influenced by Artest's actions when he gave Dirk Nowitzki the forearm shiver late in Game 4. Odom was ejected and later said he was embarrassed by his actions.
Bynum is actually a smart kid, but as are most young NBA players, easily influenced by the older players on the roster. Once Artest begat Odom, Bynum felt it was okay. Compounding his bad judgement, Bynum failed to apologize. Expect the league to announce that Bynum will miss up to five games to start 2011-12 season, when and if it does start. Remember, Bynum was suspended for two games late in the regular season for a similar take-down on Minnesota's Michael Beasley, so it has to be more than two games.
The only way Bynum's suspension will be fewer than five? Simple.
Bynum needs to stand up and sincerely take responsibility. He needs to look into a camera and tell the NBA world he is truly sorry. He needs to tell Berea that he'll buy lollipops for all the munchkins. He needs to apologize to Mav fans and tell them it was out of frustration, that they kicked the Lakers' butts, and that he will be rooting for them to win it all now.
Bynum also needs to apologize to Laker fans, to Magic Johnson, Kareem, Dr. Buss, Jerry West and especially Kurt Rambis. It's one thing to be physical. It's another to be cheap. That's not the Laker way.
Bottom line, a good agent tells his player to apologize immediately. This is where Lee comes in, and it hasn't happened as of Monday night, more than 24 hours later. There's too much on the line these days, especially with rumors of Dwight Howard seeking a trade to the Lakers.
With each day that rips off the calendar (sorry, nobody has a calendar on their desk anymore), Bynum's reputation becomes more sullied. Endorsement opportunities lessen. And the Laker organization looks worse.
I'm sure the Lakers aren't happy with the way he's handled this, and don't be surprised if the next shove is from Mitch Kupchak, Bynum being pushed all the way to Orlando.
-- Rick Schwartz is a sports broadcaster and content executive. Most recently Schwartz has hosted Fantasy Football Live for Yahoo!, and produces the Bobby Jones golf programming that airs on The Golf Channel, among others.
Photo by Associated Press