Andrew Bynum 'ready to go' after ban
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- His teammates may still need to shake off any lingering bits of fatigue following Tuesday night's triple overtime win over the Phoenix Suns at Staples, but at least one member of the Los Angeles Lakers is fresh and ready to go.
Center Andrew Bynum, suspended for his team's previous two games for a flagrant foul 2 against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley last week, said Thursday he's excited to return to the court Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
"[I'm feeling] really good," Bynum said following practice. "My knee's feeling all right. Ready to go."
Bynum, averaging 12.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks while shooting above 62 percent from the floor in eight March games -- all but one a win for the Lakers -- is expected to slide back into the starting lineup, putting Lamar Odom back into his sixth man role.
Speaking to the media for the first time since incurring the penalty from the NBA, Bynum said Thursday he wasn't surprised to be the target of discipline from the league office.
"I pretty much knew [they'd do something]," Bynum said. "They tell us when the guy falls down, that's what's going to be what makes it even worse. If he didn't leave the game or he didn't get hurt, it probably would have been different."
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Beasley, who fell hard on his hip after absorbing contact in midair from Bynum, tried to finish the game but was unable to, then played only 14 minutes in Minnesota's next game, Monday against Sacramento.
Still, while he understood a penalty was inevitable, Bynum suggested the two-game ban was excessive for what he called a "hard foul."
"I don't think what I did was deserving [of multiple games]," he said. "I don't think I really did anything too wrong. It was unfortunate the guy fell the way he did and got hurt, but at the end of the day, sometimes fouls happen."
Bynum said he texted Beasley following the game.
"Just seeing if he was all right," he said. "You don't want guys to get hurt."
While his teammates had to make up his minutes, the suspension arguably came with a silver lining for the Lakers. Bynum recently said his surgically repaired right knee, which has caused him to miss the season's first 24 games, wasn't fully healthy. Coach Phil Jackson said the extra rest of about a week could benefit his young center in the long term. Bynum stopped short of calling the layoff a blessing in disguise, but admitted the time off helped.
"I did get to rest and take care of my body," he said.
Certainly his teammates are excited to get him back.
"You think?" Kobe Bryant said with a laugh. "He's playing extremely well. It makes us a deeper team. Lamar doing what he can do, coming off the bench. I think our second unit has suffered a little bit because Lamar hasn't been able to be in there with them. It's good."
Bryant scoffed at suggestions Bynum might lose conditioning after a long layoff.
"He's still 12 years old," Bryant said. "He's fine."
Pau Gasol, who logged over 90 minutes in the two games following Bynum's suspension, is certainly happy to have him back.
"It affects us in a positive way. We'll be back in our normal rotations, and our normal depth. And obviously if Andrew can keep playing the way he was playing, it'll be great," he said. "I'm sure he'll be energized and pretty fresh after a few days off. Should be right where he left off."
Bynum said neither his teammates nor coaches spoke with him extensively regarding the play or the suspension. After the game against Minnesota, Jackson suggested Bynum acted out of frustration after not receiving foul calls on the offensive end, a point he reiterated Thursday.
"He carried a play from one end of the court to the other," Jackson said. "We try to talk to guys about that. It's important not to do. Basketball's such a game that you really have to let things go. Move on to the next [play]."
Asked if he believed Bynum learned his lesson while forced to the sideline, Jackson seemed hopeful.
"You end up having to reflect on it," he said. "He's an intelligent young man."
For his part, Bynum disputed Jackson's take on the play.
"I wasn't frustrated," he said. "At that particular point of the game, we were against Minnesota, a team we were supposed to beat handily, and they were in the game."
Brian Kamenetzky co-authors the Land O'Lakers blog for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.