Our Andrew Bynum interview is the first in a series of Q&As; with prominent sports figures. The Q&A; features will run every Monday.
It’s been three months since Lakers center Andrew Bynum delivered his infamous forearm shiver to the rib cage of diminutive Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea, and stripped off his purple and gold jersey after being ejected. It was the parting shot by the defending champions in surrendering their NBA crown.
The 23-year-old 7-footer apologized for his actions two days later. The NBA suspended Bynum for five games at the start of next season, costing him $677,272 in salary, and fined him $25,000 for his actions in the finale of the Mavericks’ four-game sweep.
Since then, Bynum hasn’t been heard from publicly, a fact grating on many because he allegedly parked in a spot reserved for those with disabled-parking placards last month at a Playa del Rey grocery store.
Recently, The Times caught up with Bynum, who was dripping with sweat at 9 a.m. after an extended workout in Hollywood with Alex Ariza, the conditioning coach for boxing champions Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and some celebrities. Bynum discussed the Lakers 2010-11 season, his effort to return stronger, the NBA lockout and rumors about his being traded.
You’ve had time to reflect on last season; what are your thoughts?
We got embarrassed and we all need to come back focused, ready to win. You lose 4-0, there’s not much more to be said. I was the first one to admit we didn’t work hard enough to win. Let’s tell the truth. It was due to a myriad of reasons -- our collective drive and determination. It’s about being accountable. Me included. Everyone included.
You started working out at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club a few weeks ago. Why?
I wanted to get more confident in my hands and get in shape.... I stumbled across Amir and saw Alex was training him, and once I saw the stuff they were doing, I wanted to do it too. I got so much better in just one week, I wanted to continue. Running stairs, swimming, upper-body weightlifting, track work. Because of my [previously injured] knees, I’m keeping pressure off them rather than loading up the squat rack with weights. It’s remarkable. I’m still 285 [pounds], but the body fat is gone and what Alex calls functional muscle is stronger.
It was surprising to hear you’re not just boxing and working out but enrolled in Spanish and piano classes this summer too. Are you making up for what you were deprived of by missing college?
My brother’s wife is Colombian, so now we have mixed cultures in my family. Plus, I live in L.A., I want to communicate with people. The piano, I started to play when I was a little kid, and now I have a really good teacher at UCLA. I play by reading chords in a composition style. I take two-hour lessons three times a week. It’s something that makes me happy. It’s calming, it changes my mood. It’ll be good; down the road I can play my girlfriend’s song when she becomes my wife.
What happened in that parking incident at the grocery store?
I’m not talking about that.
Ron Artest said he will play overseas during the lockout. Another team is trying to lure Kobe Bryant. Do you want to play over there?
No, I’ll stay here and stay in shape. [The lockout] seems bad, but I don’t think anyone wants to lose games. Player salaries aren’t the issue as much as people buying teams and arenas that have been devalued by the things that are part of everyone’s life now. We might miss training camp, but I think the season will start on time.
How have you endured speculation you’ll be traded, or replaced next year by free agent Dwight Howard?
It’s good to know everybody wants me; that means I’ll be in this game for some time. I like L.A., and don’t want to go anywhere else. It’d be good to stay in one place your whole career, and the Lakers are the most storied franchise in the league, everyone knows who the Lakers are, and I appreciate the Lakers’ love.
It sounds as if you’ve resolved to make fans forget how last season ended.
I want to be the best player I can be. Having some successes, but not having them talked about, or having them overshadowed by other things ... I’m past that. It’s all about winning championships. Working hard is the most important thing. People remember you only if you win. Period.
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Time on the shelf
Andrew Bynum has sat out 145 regular and postseason games in the last four seasons because of knee injuries.
*--* Season GP Playoffs 2005-06 46 Played 1 game; Lakers lost in first round 2006-07 82 Played 5 games; Lakers lost in first round 2007-08 35 Played 0 games; Lakers lost in NBA Finals 2008-09 50 Played 23 games: Lakers won NBA title 2009-10 65 Played 23 games: Lakers won NBA title 2010-11 54 Played 10 games: Lakers lost in Western semis *--*
GP is regular-season games played by Bynum of the Lakers’ 82 games