Midway through the fourth quarter of the Lakers tougher-than-expected win over the Timberwolves on Friday, Andrew Bynum was called for a flagrant two foul for the contact he made with Michael Beasley. L.A. was up one with a little over six minutes remaining, and Beasley blew by Matt Barnes on the perimeter, drove baseline, and Bynum was there waiting.
Bynum led with his right elbow and met Beasley in mid-air, which sent the power forward crashing hard to the Staples Center floor. Bynum was (correctly, I believe) assessed a with a flagrant foul two, which means an immediate ejection. It also means that the league office will review the play to determine if it warrants additional disciplinary action in the form of a suspension. A slow-motion look at things shows that it likely should not.
At full speed, the play from Bynum looked worse than it was, because of the follow through with that right elbow. But that came after the contact was already made, and did nothing to make Beasley’s awkward fall any more damaging.
Phil Jackson described it like this:
“[Bynum] was going to go block the shot and he knew he was too late and so he just bumped him; he just gave up on the block but he didn’t try for the block,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “But, Andrew’s [foul] looked bad and the kid fell hard.”
Let’s be clear: I’m in no way defending Bynum’s actions here, as both head coaches seemed to do afterward. It was anything but a smart play, and given the young center’s size and strength, he needs to be careful when giving these types of hard fouls, because the results can be scary. There’s even a correct way to do this, by jumping straight up with both arms extended and absorbing the player’s contact with the body. It will have the same desired effect — the opponent will go down hard, and think twice about challenging Bynum in the lane the rest of the game. Just don’t be reckless about it.
With that being said, this one, I think, was just a frustration foul from Bynum that went a little too far, and the consequence at the time — an ejection with about six minutes left in a one-point game — was punishment enough.
It is possible, of course, that the league will see it differently.
It’s not exactly accurate to say that Bynum has a history with these types of plays, but one that does come to mind was the fairly severe result of a similar play involving Bynum and Gerald Wallace back in January of 2009. That flagrant foul from Bynum sent Wallace to the hospital, for injuries that included a partially collapsed lung and a broken rib.
Bynum wasn’t suspended back then for the play on Wallace, and he shouldn’t receive a suspension now.