The erratic play and behavior of Lakers center Andrew Bynum has been noticed. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)
NEW ORLEANS — Phil Jackson has a message for everybody criticizing Andrew Bynum.
The former Lakers coach told The Times he enjoyed seeing Bynum's development, even if it had been filled with inexplicable turns the last few weeks.
"Bynum is not quite mature, but everyone should relax and watch him grow up," Jackson said via email. "This year has been a big step for him offensively…nice to see…and when he takes up the mantle as defensive captain the Lakers can get back in the hunt."
Jackson was strict with Bynum while coaching him for six seasons, prodding him about his fitness, getting more rebounds and playing better defense.
Bynum's on-court troubles began last month when he tossed up a three-point shot early in the third quarter of a close game against Golden State. Bynum didn't exactly apologize afterward after being yanked from the game.
He was fined a total of either $5,000 or $7,500 by the team for his conduct relating to that game, which included shrugging and frowning for a TV camera while sitting at the end of the bench.
More recently, he was ejected early in the fourth quarter of a close game for taunting Houston's bench.
Monday against New Orleans, he delivered a bizarre foul on point guard Greivis Vasquez above the three-point line after not getting a call at the other end in the second quarter. Hornets fans booed him briefly after that.
The Lakers have been unhappy with Bynum's defense the last few weeks, thinking he is focusing too much on offense. His rebounding has also slipped from 13.7 a game in February to 10.9 a game in March to an average of 9.4 through five games in April.
From Bynum's more distant past, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lauded his former protege for being able to "learn about the game and stay healthy to become an All-Star."
But Abdul-Jabbar, who mentored Bynum for a handful of seasons, showed concern about his recent on-court activities.
"That's something he has to deal with because they need him on the court. He needs to figure out a way to stay out there," said Abdul-Jabbar, who will make a guest appearance Tuesday on the Fox show "New Girl."
Odom coming back?
The Lakers couldn't sign Lamar Odom for the playoffs, even though he and the Dallas Mavericks were essentially done with each other, but Metta World Peace had some ideas to get Odom back to the Lakers.
"Maybe he can come back and be a ball boy and then next year he can play," World Peace said. "Get the towels and then next year play. Why not?"
World Peace wasn't done.
"Lamar for one month should be a Boy Scout and wear the outfit. Just have fun. You're getting paid," he said. "What's the biggest mountain in the world? He should go hike it. Do something that's never been done."
The Mavericks plan to list the struggling forward as inactive the rest of the season but will not waive him. Even if the Mavericks cut Odom, it's past the league-mandated date for free agents to sign with a team and still be eligible for playoffs.
Eventually, the Mavericks will try to trade Odom or, more realistically, make him a free agent by exercising a $2.5-million buyout they hold on his contract for next season.
Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report from Los Angeles.