Lakers fans may not want to hear it. They may see it as an excessive penalty, an irrational reaction or just another draconian decision coming down from the NBA league office. But let’s be clear. Suspending Andrew Bynum following his flagrant foul of Michael Beasley was the right decision. And it’s not even close.
When considering whether to suspend a player based on a flagrant foul the league office states it looks at six factors (via NBA.com):
1. The severity of the contact;
2. Whether or not the player was making a legitimate basketball play (e.g., whether a player is making a legitimate effort to block a shot; note, however, that a foul committed during a block attempt can still be considered flagrant if other criteria are present such as recklessness and hard contact to the head);
3. Whether, on a foul committed with a player’s arm or hand, the fouling player wound up and/or followed through after making contact;
4. The potential for injury resulting from contact (e.g., a blow to the head and a foul committed while a player is in a vulnerable position);
5. The severity of any injury suffered by the offended player; and
6. The outcome of the contact (e.g., whether it led to an altercation).
In the case of Bynum, you can pretty much go down and the list and see where he steps over the line. But since many of us may already be getting fuzzy Lakers vision on the actual foul itself, let’s review.
Michael Beasley beat his defender baseline and drove the basket. Bynum was late coming over on his rotation and, instead of raising his arm to contest the shot, he cocked his elbow and gave Beasley a chest high forearm shiver that spun him horizontally in mid air. Beasley crashed to the ground, landing hard on his left hip.
There’s no way you could defend the foul as a “basketball play.” He made no effort at the ball and hit Beasley while he was in mid air, an extremely vulnerable position that risked a high level of injury. Indeed, even though Beasley bounced off the floor after the incident moments later he limped to the locker room, never to return to the game.
Although no altercation followed there was an outburst of jawing and chest puffing (typical) and while you can’t say for certain that Andrew’s play was premeditated, he had been visibly frustrated at not getting any calls during the previous few minutes of game action. Maybe Bynum didn’t decide in his mind two minutes earlier that he was going to lay out Beasley, but it’s easy to see how emotions played a factor in affecting his judgment. And that, as much as anything, is something the league never has a hard time reprimanding.
Of course that isn’t to say there isn’t a flip side to coin, and that it’s not without reason.
I get that basketball is an emotional game. I think some of the liberal technical fouls called this year based on animated reactions from players are completely over the top and unwarranted. The players aren’t emotionless automatons and you can’t expect them to behave as such.
Furthermore, and more importantly, basketball is highly physical affair. There are going to be hard fouls. There are going to be injuries that result from the collision of bodies’ motion. But, as physical and intimidating as you may want to be, you simply can’t go out there looking to hurt someone. And, whether it was Bynum’s intention or not, the replays don’t lie
As a Lakers fan I don’t like the fact that they’ll be without Big Drew for two games. I do, however, understand the rationale.