The biggest news from Thursday's practice came in the form of literally the Lakers' biggest player. With his two-game suspension finally served, Andrew Bynum spoke to the media for the first time since a flagrant foul on Michael Beasley landed him in the Commish's dog house. For Drew, the exile provided a knee still-not-100 percent extra time to strengthen, but that bright side wasn't enough to turn the kid's frown all the way upside down. While he "knew [they'd do something]," Bynum made no secret of an opinion the league went overboard in his punishment:
"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.
"I don't think what I did was deserving [of multiple games]. 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."
Asked if this was a learning experience, Drew said no, the idea being a) he already knows what constitutes a problematic foul and b) he didn't think he did anything wrong in the first place. Taken at its most literal, this is somewhat disconcerting. Not that I'm looking for Drew to have spent the last few days locked in a closet sobbing guilt-ridden tears -- in point of fact, he did text Beasley to see if he was OK -- but zero remorse on any level makes me wonder if Drew will find himself in a similar pickle in the not-so-distant future.
Hopefully, these comments reflect a reluctance to publicly admit fault rather than a "stand" of sorts being taken. As much as you want the lane protected and a reputation for physical play as a team, the risk-to-reward ratio of Drew's foul wasn't worth it. Yes, the Lakers won both games without him, but that's not the point. I honestly doubt a "message" reverberated throughout the league after seeing Bynum elbow a member of a Western Conference bottom feeder. In the meantime, Drew will now be under a more powerful microscope and likely has a reputation of sorts developing, which is never a positive.
Hopefully, he'll keep this in the back of his mind moving forward.
Phil Jackson would disagree with the incident painted as one without lessons to be learned. “He carried a play from one end of the court to the other," explained the coach. "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].”
For his part, Drew insisted mounting frustration wasn't an issue, but rather his desire to prevent the Wolves from gaining any momentum. In any event, Jackson expressed confidence Drew will take something constructive away from this stint in basketball jail.
"I think you have to think about it," noted Jackson. "You end up having to reflect on it. He’s an intelligent young man.”
The one thing everyone in El Segundo agreed upon, however, was the impact of Bynum's absence, along with his return. Kobe Bryant reiterated how much they missed the kid, and expected him to pick up at the high level where he left off. Any concerns about conditioning issues resulting from two missed games were, in Bryant's mind, ridiculous.
"He's still 12 years old," Bryant smirked. "He's fine."
While there's no denying Pau Gasol was feeling the effects of big minutes with Bynum gone and will welcome back his frontcourt buddy with open arms, it has also become clear he has gotten a little sick of being portrayed as a guy about to keel over and collapse.
"A couple games doesn't hurt," said Gasol, who claimed he felt great during practice. "It doesn't bother me at all."
He also described Tuesday's marathon game as "an experience, something that now at the end of a career that you've done and you've been through. It was a cool game. A fun game. An exciting game for the fans. A lot of people have approached me and said how exciting that ending was and how much fun they had watching it, so good."
As part of a relief effort for the disaster in Japan, Gasol will donate $1,000 for every point scored Friday against the Clippers. Just one more reason to play inside-out ball and feed the post.