EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Lakers center Andrew Bynum needed a couple of days to sit back and reflect on the way he finished his season before addressing the topics that the basketball world wanted to know about. But he knew immediately after watching what his forearm shiver did to Mavericks guard Jose Barea in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Game 4 loss in Dallas that he had to step up and do the right thing.
“Before I take any questions I want to make a statement about a couple of things,” he said Tuesday morning in a cramped interview room off of the Lakers’ practice court. “I want to apologize for my actions at the start of the fourth quarter of Game 4 against Dallas. They don’t doesn’t represent me, my upbringing, this franchise or any of the Lakers’ fans out there that want to watch us and want us to succeed. More importantly, I want to apologize to J.J. Barea for doing that. I’m just glad that he wasn’t seriously injured in the event. All I can say, now that I have looked at it, and it was terrible, is it definitely won’t be happening again.”
Bynum was immediately ejected from the game. But he stripped his jersey off on his way off the floor. It was one of the most shocking moments in a shocking series that saw the two-time defending Lakers come apart as their three-year reign atop the Western Conference ended in a sweep and a 36-point beating in Game 4.
He’s been roasted here in Southern California by fans, the talking heads on sports radio and most vehemently by former Lakers greats like Magic Johnson and James Worthy, who have not held back in their disdain for his actions. Bynum offered up little defense of himself in the wake of the controversy he started with that blow to Barea’s rib cage while the 5-foot-10 point guard was in mid-air.
“After I saw it,” Bynum said again, “it was definitely embarrassing.”
Bynum admitted that his frustrations obviously got the better of him in the moment. He made no excuses for his actions, which are sure to earn him a suspension from the league at the start of the next season.
He said he has tried to reach out to Barea to apologize to him personally, but said he has yet to make contact with him. Bynum said he will continue to do so. “He probably has bigger, better and more important things to do so I don’t know if I’ll get a response,” he said. “But I will [keep trying.]“
As for his future with the Lakers, Bynum spoke of returning bigger, stronger and better next season, despite rumors about Dwight Howard replacing him as the Lakers’ starting center some day.
He goes into the offseason with a clean bill of health for the first time since 2008, which allows him to attack an unusually long (and unpredictable, since the collective bargaining agreement expires June 30) summer break, by Lakers’ standards.
“I’m able to work at my own time whenever I want,” Bynum said. “That’s one thing that’s good. I don’t have to go through rehab. I’m not sitting down for three months. I don’t have to get so far out of shape, which is a great thing … I’m definitely looking forward to coming back a different player.”
Those calls for the Lakers to blow up this roster and start over won’t get an endorsement of any kind from Bynum. He still believes the team that fell short in its three-peat bid can crank it back up for next season and compete for another championship
“I 100 percent believe that we can win a title (and that) this team is a contending team,” Bynum said. “We have the talent, and honestly it makes a bit easier to rein guys in and to be focused having the feeling of defeat for six months.”