The Lakers and their fans can’t complain too much.
The NBA considered suspending Andrew Bynum for three games before settling on a two-game punishment for his flagrant foul on Friday against Minnesota.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and General Manager Mitch Kupchak called it “excessive,” but without the existence of an appeals process, Bynum sat out the game Sunday against Portland (an 84-80 Lakers victory) and will also miss the game Tuesday against Phoenix.
Nobody seems happy with it. Not the NBA, which sent warning letters to all teams in December about cracking down on flagrant fouls. Not the Lakers, who lost a player averaging 13 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots in his last 10 games.
And presumably not Bynum, who hasn’t yet spoken publicly but can’t be thrilled about losing $249,090 for two games’ pay.
The Lakers could only try to come up with best-case scenarios, such as Bynum’s getting extra rest after experiencing recent swelling in his right knee.
“We’ll put a spin on it that it’s a positive thing for us,” Jackson said, though he was being sarcastic.
Translation: Bynum will be missed.
The NBA had its reasons for acting decisively, according to Stu Jackson, in charge of player discipline as the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations.
“It was not a basketball play,” he said in a phone interview with The Times. “There was a chance for Bynum to make a basketball play, but he led with his forearm on a play that was both dangerous and reckless because the player, [Michael] Beasley, was vulnerable in the air with no defense. The result of all of this was Beasley was injured and had to leave the game.
“We considered even going with three games, but we felt two was warranted here.”
After being flattened by Bynum on a drive, Beasley left the game because of a bruised left hip.
He stayed in long enough for two free-throw attempts with 6:16 to play. Bynum was ejected.
Beasley played in the Timberwolves’ 127-95 loss to Sacramento on Sunday but was reportedly still bothered by his hip and logged only 15 minutes. He had 13 points.
“I feel badly … for the team, for the fans,” Phil Jackson said. “Beasley played today. It’s not like he missed a game because of it. There’s a certain element that says if a player is suspended for bringing another player down, he should probably spend the same amount of time out that that player spends out.… “
Not all the Lakers were upset with the league’s decision. “I’m proud of him,” Kobe Bryant said of Bynum. “He earned his stripes.”
Bynum will need to be careful the rest of the regular season if he wants to avoid further discipline.
He will be automatically suspended for one game if he commits another flagrant foul, type 2, before the end of the regular season.
The Lakers were hoping for leniency from the league. Bynum isn’t known as a rough player with an angry demeanor.
He texted Beasley with an apology Saturday morning, according to reports in Minneapolis.
Even the Timberwolves’ coach, former Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis, said the play wasn’t symbolic of Bynum’s typical behavior.
The Lakers were therefore perturbed.
“Like I said [Saturday], you never know. There’s no [NBA] standard,” Phil Jackson said. “There’s nothing to go by. It’s all subjective.”
Actually, the fine print in league bylaws says the NBA metes out suspensions on flagrant fouls based on three factors: how hard the foul was, whether it led to an altercation, and the degree of injury sustained by the player who was fouled.
Kupchak was more subtle than Phil Jackson, conceding a one-game suspension after seeing it on replay when it happened.
“I am surprised it was two games,” he said. “I thought if anything it would be one game. I thought [the penalty] was excessive.”
The Lakers went with their relatively familiar frontcourt of Pau Gasol at center, Lamar Odom at power forward and Ron Artest at small forward against the Trail Blazers.
Odom played well after his promotion from reserve status, collecting 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.