Lakers Coach Mike Brown, left, speaks with center Andrew Bynum during a… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The moment Mike Brown walks into his Anaheim Hills home following a Lakers game, his sons greet him with persistent questions.
You know, the ones involving trade rumors, why the Lakers won or lost and why Brown benched Kobe Bryant late in the game Sunday against Memphis. Brown escaped that scrutiny, however, after the Lakers' 104-101 win Tuesday over the Golden State Warriors. Thankfully for him, he didn't have to explain benching Andrew Bynum for most of the second half after the center launched an ill-advised three-point attempt.
"I was asleep by the time I got home," said Brown, since the team flew from the Bay Area to LAX. "So thank goodness. Then by the time I woke up, they were gone for school. It was a good thing."
The media made up for it, though, peppering Brown after Wednesday's practice with questions related to Bynum's benching and his insistence afterward that he'll keep attempting three-pointers despite only going going one-of-seven beyond the arc in his seven-year career. Brown made it clear he has "no issues" with Bynum, described his relationship with him as "fine" and described his effort in Wednesday's practice as "great."
Still, Brown stood firm on his decision to bench Bynum for most of the second half.
"He can say anything he wants," Brown said of Bynum, who didn't speak with reporters after Wednesday's practice. "At the end of the day, if I feel like a guy is not playing the right way for our team, I'll make a change. I don't think there's any more to it than that."
Brown made that change after Bynum launched a three-pointer early in the shot clock with 9 minutes 33 seconds left in the third quarter as the Lakers struggled to hold onto a six-point lead. Bynum sat out the rest of the quarter and then appeared in the first 2:50 of the fourth quarter before Brown sat him again. Bynum missed two jumpers and a free throw during that stretch, but Brown also conceded his poor effort on the glass (five rebounds) and on defense is "part of the reason I took him back out." Brown remained unsure whether Bynum's lack of effort correlated to his earlier benching.
"All I know is he took a 3 and I'm looking at the time, score and flow of the game and I felt like I needed to make a change," Brown said of Bynum, who posted 11 points on four-of-13 shooting and five rebounds. "Then I put him back in later in the game and I didn't think we were getting it done. So I felt like we needed to make a change again. So I made a change. There's not much more to it. If I feel like I need to make a change, I'll make a change. It's as simple as that."
Throughout the second half, Bynum sat on the bench displaying behavior that, at best, suggested indifference, and at worst, showed unprofessionalism. Immediately after getting yanked for his three-pointer, Bynum sat on the bench laughing and mimicking his shooting form. When the KCAL-TV Channel 9 cameras zoomed in on him at one point during the fourth quarter, he gave a perturbed look and pointed at the scoreboard. During every timeout, Bynum remained in his seat and refused to join the team in huddles.
Brown hesitated to criticize Bynum for that, partly because he said he didn't see the television feed and partly because he doesn't require all of his players to stand in the huddle during timeouts. Bryant, at times, has stayed out of the huddle, including in the Lakers' game Sunday against Memphis when he sat out for four of the last six minutes of the fourth quarter. Lakers reserve Matt Barnes has also occasionally stood outside the huddle. Lakers forward and co-captain Pau Gasol took issue with that, though.
"Regardless of what happens during games or any particular action, you still have to be with the group," Gasol said. "You can get upset with another player. You can get upset with a fan. You can get upset with yourself or a coach. But you have to make sure you're involved with what's going on with your team."
Gasol said he privately discussed the issues with Bynum and described his behavior as "one isolated action in one isolated game." After all, Bynum's had a breakout and fully healthy season where he landed his first All-Star game appearance by posting a career-high 18.2 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in 46 games.