His back was turned to everyone in the Lakers’ locker room. Center Andrew Bynum thus showed little regard for any team official or reporter who might approach him.
His heavy metal tunes blared out of his headphones by his locker. Bynum showed how he defiantly violates team rules.
His explanation for the loud music moments before entering the players’ lounge hardly sounded contrite. “It’s my music,” he said. Bynum showed how he does as he pleases regardless of consequences.
And this is the man who’s supposedly the Lakers’ future? Tab his behavior before he sat out the Lakers’ 91-87 victory Tuesday over the New Jersey Nets as just a 24-year-old’s immaturity. On the surface, playing music loudly is hardly a big deal even if it violates a team rule. But add it to a litany of other transgressions and it becomes clear that Bynum may be on the verge of significantly hurting locker room chemistry if he doesn’t shape up. For once, the Lakers’ championship hopes hinge less on Bynum’s staying healthy and more on whether he will improve his behavior.
Bynum earned ejections last season for committing flagrant fouls against Michael Beasley and J.J. Barea. He offered no apology for his strike against Beasley, and his remorse for clotheslining Barea occurred two days later. Bynum frequently has gotten caught parking in spaces for the disabled and earning speeding tickets. He’s refused to address those incidents.
Take a deep breath, because those episodes happened before the 2011-12 season. There’s more.
He admitted lacking effort in an embarrassing loss three weeks ago to Washington. Bynum playfully high-fived teammates and fans two weeks ago after an ejection at Houston. Despite Coach Mike Brown’s benching him for taking an ill-advised three-pointer last week against Golden State, Bynum continued taking digs. He proclaimed he’ll shoot more three-pointers. Bynum maintained he sits out team huddles. He lacked consistent effort both in defense and rebounding. And then, as ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin reported, Bynum also skipped a meeting with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
Yet Brown tried saying with a straight face that Bynum doesn’t have an attitude problem.
“I don’t have a problem with Bynum,” he said.
But the organization clearly does. The Times’ Mike Bresnahan first reported the Lakers’ fining him an undisclosed amount of money. But it remains to be seen whether that will stop Bynum from acting up or prompt him to test boundaries even further. That’s because the Lakers still plan to exercise his $16.1-million option for next season at some point before June 30.
Until then, Bynum has everyone on pins and needles. Will his career-high 17.9-point average make his immaturity a moot point? Or will his stewing become too distracting?
The Lakers are still giving him an opportunity to change his reputation. But their patience with Bynum has put them in this predicament.