The Los Angeles Lakers 285-pound center, who took out his frustrations on the Dallas Mavericks' backup point guard with a vicious mid-air forearm shiver that got him ejected from Game 4 and subsequently suspended and fined, publicly apologized Tuesday and then phoned Barea, leaving an apology on his voice mail.
Barea, fortunate only to have slightly bruised ribs and a bruised left hand after crashing to the floor early in the fourth quarter of the series-clincher, said he accepts the big man's apology.
"I believe him," Barea said Wednesday after the Mavericks' first full practice since earning a berth in the Western Conference finals. "He regrets fouling me. He regrets what he did. I think he means well and it's just a mistake that can happen to anybody."
Barea, listed at 6-foot, but is actually closer to 5-10, said he did not feel a need to return Bynum's call. The sixth-year center who is just 23 years old, opened his exit interview Tuesday in Los Angeles with a heartfelt apology.
"My actions ... don't represent me, my upbringing, this franchise or any of the Laker fans out there that want to watch us and want us to succeed," Bynum said. "Furthermore, and more importantly, I want to actually apologize to J.J. Barea for doing that. I'm just glad that he wasn't seriously injured in the event and all I can say is, I've looked at [the replay], it's terrible and it definitely won't be happening again."
A few hours later, the league handed down its punishment, suspending Bynum for five games that he will serve next season for the hit to Barea, as well as fining him $25,000 for removing his jersey and the manner in which he left the court.
The suspension is lengthy for a penalty that is not a fight. The Mavs seemed satisfied with the justice meted out by the league office.
"It's up to the league. This isn't the People's Court," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "It's a significant penalty."
Barea carved up the Lakers' defense, continually dribbling into the lane for layups or kicking it out to wide-open 3-point shooters. He dominated Game 2 with eight points and two assists in the fourth quarter and he scored a career-best 22 points in Game 4.
With 8:21 left in the fourth quarter, Barea drove to the basket with only the 7-foot Bynum in the vicinity. Bynum stuck out his elbow and collided with Barea in mid-air, sending Barea crashing to the floor. Somehow he made the shot and after an official time out, Barea returned to the court and made the free throw for a 101-68 lead.
Bynum was issued a flagrant foul 2, an automatic ejection. As he left the floor he removed his jersey. Barea said the incident won't keep him from being aggressive and attacking the paint.
"I'm going to keep driving and I'm going to keep getting hit," Barea said. "That's what happens."
Less than a minute earlier, Lakers forward Lamar Odom was ejected on a flagrant foul 2 when he intentionally crashed into Dirk Nowitzki well above the 3-point line as Jason Kidd was bringing up the ball to set up the offense.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavs for ESPNDallas.com.