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T.J. SIMERS

Say it ain't so: Andrew Bynum following in Kobe Bryant's footsteps

Center Andrew Bynum's displays of immaturity should worry Lakers and their fans. But the better he plays, the more his sense of entitlement grows, as management indulges him and fans cheer him.

April 09, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • Chris Graythen / Getty Images
Chris Graythen / Getty Images (m28px4pd/600 )

Good for you.

But lousy for me as I sit here realizing what is happening: Bynum is becoming Kobe.

Nooooooo!!!!!!!

Bynum now has the ability to change games, swing them in the Lakers' favor and get away with being a jerk.

Another year or two and he'll have folks, the ones he would ignore if asked to stop and talk, chanting "MVP, MVP."

I was right all along about Bynum, but now I feel I owe everyone an apology.

I made the argument the Lakers were forward thinkers for taking a raw big guy in a game played by big guys. I loved the way the draft pick was used.

When he was hurt, I still defended the kid. And I opposed trading him just because he might get hurt again.

I liked the potential Bynum had to offer as much as Jim Buss did, and no one agrees with Jim Buss on anything.

There were people making the argument the Lakers should have traded both Bynum and Pau Gasol to get Dwight Howard. I thought that was the kind of foolishness you might hear only on Steve Mason's radio show.

I was right — Bynum became an All-Star center and he is now a force in the game. On many nights he might even give the Lakers a better chance to win than Bryant.

And he's improving with each game, primarily the ones where he's not ejected.

But as he's gained more acclaim and more money, maturity has remained elusive, and now he's indifferent to most people.

He didn't think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could teach him anything more, and how much more immature can you be? But he is very good now at turning off people, so it wasn't as if he didn't learn anything.

Bynum parked not once but twice — and those are the two times he was caught — in spaces reserved for the handicapped.

This was after making a spectacle of himself in the playoffs and strutting off the court while taking off his jersey.

A big baby comes to mind, and I hope Kobe doesn't get upset if I use the same nickname for Bynum.

Bynum recently blew off a meeting with the team's general manager, and seems to pay little attention to Coach Mike Brown.

He's benched for taking a three-point shot and says he will take more. He's 24 but talks like a 6-year-old granddaughter I know who has a Grocery Store Bagger for a daddy.

The Lakers fined Bynum between $5,000 and $7,500, The Times' Mike Bresnahan is reporting. Considering the Lakers are paying him more than $181,000 a game, he probably won't have to cut back on anything.

Next year he's due for a raise of more than $1 million if the Lakers pick up his option as they have said they will. And it doesn't matter whether he's mature.

But what is he doing in life had he not been blessed to grow huge? How many jobs does he have by age 24 if he acts the way he does and is not a professional athlete?

Last week he is thrown out of a game against Houston and later is unrepentant although it probably cost his team a victory.

He's Kobe — he's bulletproof. How often has Kobe gone ball hog, a victory squandered and no apologies forthcoming?

Like Kobe, Bynum is on his way to owning Los Angeles any way he sees fit.

And you'll probably fall all over yourself cheering for him.

The other day Kobe was suggesting everyone go easy on Bynum, no doubt seeing himself.

How crazy does this sound? If only we were talking Shaq and Kobe here, both players taking their opposite corners.

But as one observer noted, Bynum watched Bryant go his own way in not fully participating in All-Star weekend festivities and then wondered why he had to comply.

Why shouldn't Bynum be who he is, with Bryant as role model?

But aloof doesn't even begin to cover it with Bynum. As tall as he is and wearing oversized headphones as he does, he really can go through life acting as if he's listening to no one.

You would hope the Lakers would explain to him what it means to be a pro, but teams shy away from such accountability for fear it might affect a player's performance.

Who is going to tell Bynum to grow up? Jim Buss?

Spend five minutes with the Clippers' Chris Paul, and as friendly, thoughtful and human as he comes across, it's a waste of time hoping Bynum and Bryant might deign to speak.

If Bynum chooses to not listen to his GM or coach, what can the Lakers do? Suspend the guy who might lead them to the playoffs?

They let Kobe be who he is, uncoachable, as Phil Jackson wrote. Yet two years from now the Lakers will be paying Kobe $30 million to play for them. As any great player knows, he can do whatever he wants.

Kobe is a stupendous basketball player but hardly embraceable — except by the people who would listen to the Steve Mason radio show.

His admirers will say it's all in the name of competitiveness, and maybe that's all that really matters if the players you like the best are the ones who win the most.

I know this: No matter who they are, they come and they go. And although he will be more successful than Magic, Kobe will never leave as loved.

But then as long as he's hitting the impossible shots and wearing a Los Angeles jersey, does anything else matter? San Francisco loved Barry Bonds.

And Los Angeles is just going to love Bynum, while probably giving little thought to whether they have a punk for a center.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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