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BILL PLASCHKE

Andrew Bynum finds himself in another bad spot

Handicapped parking situation is the latest to show that the Lakers' promising young center still is lacking in maturity.

July 21, 2011|Bill Plaschke
  • Lakers center Andrew Bynum sits on the bench during a game against the Detroit Pistons in January, 2010. Bynum was caught parking in a handicap spot.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum sits on the bench during a game against the Detroit… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

His conscience is paralyzed. His sense of entitlement is blinding.

So, no, actually, I wasn't surprised to see this week's photos of Andrew Bynum leaving his convertible sitting across two handicapped parking spaces while he shopped at an upscale grocery store in Westchester.

If there's one Laker who suffers from a disability of maturity, it's him.

The sight of this strong, able-bodied basketball star exploiting a benefit belonging to the physically challenged would have been only sad, if it weren't also so expected. The photos, unveiled in an NBC4 investigation, did not result in a ticket because there were no parking cops around. However, this was the latest in a string of incidents that have left the big man looking small.

A couple of months ago, Times columnist T.J. Simers stopped fawning over Bynum long enough to write about an emailed photo from a reader who claimed the image was of Bynum's sports car parked in a handicapped spot at a Playa del Rey bank.

A few weeks before that, Bynum ended the postseason with a disgraceful clothesline cheap shot of Dallas' Jose Barea, knocking the guard to the court in a heap. Bynum was ejected from the game, but not before he tore off his shirt in a crude gesture of retribution, stalking away half-dressed while appearing half-crazy.

The Lakers had a meeting with him after that incident. They reportedly had another meeting with him earlier in the year about other questionable community behavior.

This is a guy who blew off knee surgery last summer to travel to South Africa, forcing the Lakers to start the season without him, causing Pau Gasol to be overworked perhaps to a point of playoff exhaustion.

This is a guy who, while sidelined from a knee injury two years ago, was photographed at the Playboy Mansion playing hula hoop and carrying a scantily clad woman around on his shoulders.

I've spent two years practically pleading for the Lakers to trade him because he'll always be such a physical risk. The Lakers have always resisted because of the potential of his size and his youth.

Well, right now, he's nothing more than a big dummy who, at age 23, is old enough to know better. Right now, his supporters in the Lakers front office are dwindling to the point where they can probably all fit under Jimmy Buss' baseball cap.

The only thing that Bynum seemingly understands less than respect is remorse. It took him two days to apologize for the nationally criticized clobbering of Barea, and it will take at least that long for him to apologize for this handicapped-parking incident.

I gave him a chance Thursday, but his agent David Lee said Bynum could not be reached for comment. In fact, the only sounds we've heard from Bynum since this disclosure was the slamming of his car door on an NBC4 reporter who ambushed him earlier this week.

Well, that, and a Thursday afternoon tweet from Bynum describing how he has arrived in Las Vegas for the weekend.

The Lakers' front office could not address the issue because they cannot talk about any players during the lockout, so I spoke to another guy who wears a similar jersey. His name is Alvin Malave, one of the captains of the Fast Breakin' Lakers wheelchair basketball team.

Yes, the Lakers actually sponsor a wheelchair basketball team, providing them with Lakers uniforms and everything. I'm guessing Bynum didn't know, or maybe he would have been warned about the handicapped parking spaces from rugged shooting guard Malave, 31, a Woodland Hills man who was paralyzed from the waist down a decade ago when he was hit by a car.

"Not a lot of stuff bothers me, but this is a big, big deal," Malave said. "For someone like Bynum to not take it seriously, he has no understanding of our situation."

Malave is fit enough to easily roll his wheelchair from any spot in any lot, but he parks in the handicapped spots because he needs the space to enter and exit his car.

"Those spots aren't only close, they're wider than regular spots, that's why they're so important," he said. "I need to have my door fully open to get my wheelchair out and put it back in."

Malave remembers times when he has been forced to park his car in a regular space, only to return to find it hemmed him by two other cars.

"I'll have to wait in the parking lot for 10 or 15 minutes sometimes for someone to come back my car out for me," he said. "It's very frustrating, and Andrew Bynum should know that."

Bynum should also know that there was once a very good college football coach in this town, UCLA's Bob Toledo, whose tenure here began to unravel in 1999 when 14 of his players were charged in a handicapped parking scandal.

"It's a shame a superstar like that couldn't use better judgment," Malave said. "Hopefully, he'll at least apologize."

Here's an idea, Drew. After your apology, why don't you show up at the Maywood Park and Recreation Center one Saturday morning before the end of summer to cheer on the Fast Breakin' Lakers as they play other teams in a wheelchair summer league?

The handicapped parking spots will be filled, but that's OK.

You can walk.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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