Lakers center Andrew Bynum was suspended five games by the NBA on Tuesday… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers keep getting reminded about their meltdown in Dallas. It was the NBA's turn to tap them on the shoulder Tuesday.
Andrew Bynum was suspended by the league for the first five games next season without pay and will forfeit $677,272 in salary for belting diminutive Dallas guard Jose Barea in the final game of the Lakers' season Sunday.
Bynum was also fined $25,000 for removing his jersey as he left the court after getting ejected in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.
After 48 hours of raging criticism from all corners, including many Lakers fans, Bynum apologized Tuesday for driving his forearm into the ribcage of an in-flight Barea.
Bynum said his 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. 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. All I can say is I've looked at it, it's terrible and it definitely won't be happening again."
It happened twice this season to Bynum, who drew a two-game suspension in March for flattening Minnesota forward Michael Beasley.
Tuesday was the first day of annual exit interviews for Lakers players at their training facility.
Bynum said he "didn't pay much attention" to what people said about him publicly since committing the foul on Barea. Then he jumped into his modified Porsche 911 and a sports-talk radio show drifted out of his windows.
Bynum was not contrite immediately after Sunday's game, saying he was embarrassed that the "smallest guy on the court" kept scoring on the Lakers. What changed his mind two days later when he met with reporters?
"I went and watched it," he said. "It was terrible. The whole sequence. Sometimes you just have to . . . man up and own it, and that's what happened."
Bynum said he had tried to contact Barea. "I think he has bigger and better and more important things to do so I don't know if I'll get a response back," Bynum said.
Bynum had an apology to offer, but Pau Gasol had a denial to make.
Gasol was tired of hearing how his girlfriend was connected in any way to his poor play, let alone the demise of the Lakers' season. An unsourced report last week on a website said Gasol and his girlfriend broke up, and that Gasol blamed a "teammate's wife" for facilitating the breakup by not talking Gasol's girlfriend out of it.
The problem with that story: Gasol and his girlfriend never broke up.
Silvia Lopez Castro was at all five playoff games this spring at Staples Center. She sat next to Gasol's mother last Wednesday in Game 2 of the West semifinals.
"It's ridiculous," Gasol said Tuesday. "We never even had any altercations. Nothing. It was definitely not founded on anything true. She's been very supportive and she's been there for me during this tough time."
The "tough time" would be his ragged play since the end of the regular season.
Gasol averaged 19.6 points and 11.1 rebounds in last season's playoffs but only 13.1 points and 7.8 rebounds this postseason. His shooting percentage dropped to 42%, down from 54% in last season's championship run.
Gasol left himself open to second-guessing after the Lakers were eliminated by the Mavericks when he said there were off-court issues that might have affected his play. He clarified his comment Tuesday, pinning it to the inaccurate website report.
"The story went out and it just kept getting bigger," he said. "Because of where we play, there's going to be stories that are made up, that are totally false. All my people around me were telling me, 'Did you hear about this? What are you going to do about it?' And I'm just trying to worry about the next game."
Bynum and Gasol weren't the only focus of the exit meetings, with some players still trying to determine why their season ended so quickly.
Forward Ron Artest said there was too much physical exertion along the way, pointing out that six Lakers played all 82 regular-season games, including him. "Our legs were gone," he said.
Bynum, on the other hand, said there wasn't enough activity.
"Practices just weren't intense enough," he said. "We got caught up so much looking ahead we weren't making the more serious steps now to be prepared for what was coming."
Kobe Bryant almost never practiced with the team, getting permission from Coach Phil Jackson to sit out an overwhelming majority of the practices to conserve his body.
Veteran center Theo Ratliff was mostly injured and was almost never available to bang against Bynum on non-game days. Lakers rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks were shuttled back and forth to and from the team's Development League affiliate in Bakersfield. Gasol and Derek Fisher were often told they didn't have to practice to preserve their stamina.
For his part, Bynum missed 26 games and dozens of practices, including training camp, because of injuries.
"We have to practice," Bynum said. "I can't address anyone's health and certainly no one can address mine. I haven't been the most healthy person.
"But I know that in order to win, we need to practice and we need to be out there doing things together. That's the main thing that I see that was different from the last two years. Our practice just wasn't the same."
Bynum, however, was adamant that the Lakers' roster could win a championship as it stands now.
"I 100% believe we can win a title," he said. "This team is a contending team. We have the talent. Honestly, it makes it a bit easier to rein guys in and to be focused, having the feeling of defeat for six months."
Bryant and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak will meet with reporters Wednesday.