Lakers center Andrew Bynum powers his way past Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
DENVER — Andrew Bynum is driving me crazy, driving his teammates crazy, driving his coach crazy, driving an entire organization into an early spring ditch.
He's doing it again. He's acting like a 24-year-old toddler. One day after failing to show up in the first half of a playoff game in which the Lakers were waxed by the Denver Nuggets, he stood sleepily in front of reporters Saturday and admitted something Lakers fans haven't heard since Dennis Rodman forgot his shoes.
Bynum said he wasn't ready to play. He said he showed up too late to complete his customary pregame routine. He shrugged and said he would be better next time. Just what he's said all these other times.
"Maybe I just wasn't ready to play," he said after scoring zero points on three shots in a first half that included a 19-0 Nuggets run from which the Lakers never recovered in a 99-84 loss. "I got there a little late, I didn't have as much time as I needed."
Seriously? Not ready? Got there a little late? Isn't that something that causes you to botch a first-period high school chemistry exam? Is that something that should ever happen in the NBA playoffs with one of the most important players for one of the most prepared organizations in professional sports?
Since the beginning of the Kobe Bryant era 16 years ago, I've never heard of a Laker admittedly not being physically or mentally ready for a playoff game.
I repeated the quotes to Pau Gasol, who shook his head and said, "Oh goodness."
I repeated the quotes to Kobe Bryant, who smiled in that sinister way he smiles and said, "Hopefully you guys will stick it to him good enough where it sinks in for him."
By the time I repeated the quotes to Coach Mike Brown, he sighed and acted as though I was reading him the weather.
"You hope that this time of the season, everybody that steps on the floor is ready," he said. "We spend a lot of time talking, showing things on the tape, but sometimes it gets to the point of OK, hey, just go do it."
After Bynum's 10 blocked shots and landmark triple-double in the Lakers' win in the opener of this first-round playoff series, everyone thought, OK, Bynum was finally just doing it. In interviews about Bynum afterward, Brown used the word "monster" and "beast" so much, you would have thought he was spinning a fairy tale. In national Internet stories appearing the next couple of days, Bynum was portrayed as this poor young soul who has finally overcome the unfair criticism constantly leveled by a Los Angeles media that just doesn't understand the big kid. Who cares about that handicapped parking spot? The guy is a monster and a beast!
Fine. Forget the off-court stuff for a moment, forget all the previous scoldings that have appeared on these pages, and focus only on Friday night at the Pepsi Center.
This postseason, and every postseason in the foreseeable future, is the reason the Lakers didn't trade him. If he can't be ready now, then when?
As usual, the sunny Brown tried to find some comfort in Bynum's 18-point, seven-rebound second half, which should only make Lakers fans angrier. If he had put forth that effort the entire evening, the Lakers would be entering today's game preparing for a pleasant sweep instead of readying for more desperate chaos.
"Andrew has had some ups and down this year, right?" Gasol said. "I'm just hoping tomorrow he's ready to go for the first minute."
Well, the kid promised as much.
"For what it's worth, I'll be ready for the next game," Bynum said.
Coming from him, it could be worth nothing, or it could be worth nothing short of a championship, there being no clear signs on this road to crazy.