Every once in a while, the circumstances and events of life require us all to take a good hard look in the mirror and analyze an aspect of our being that isn't necessarily what we want it to be. Sometimes, if we're honest, we don't particularly like what we see. This is one of those times. Ladies and gentlemen, fine patrons of Silver Screen and Roll, we need to be honest with ourselves about something ... Andrew Bynum has a bit of a mean streak.
Drew doesn't exactly qualify to be a head of state in the Axis of Evil or anything, but our young big man has a growing list of incidents in which his participation was neither innocent nor benign. Friday's flagrant foul on Michael Beasley was the latest, and most egregiously blatant, incident, but we've seen similar plays out of Bynum in the past. The most obvious was Bynum's foul on Gerald Wallace in 2009, for which he was ejected, but received no further suspension. That's the only other incident I can remember off the top of my head, but I vaguely recall at least two other occasions in which Drew made a play on the ball that included a bit of excessive force.
Does this make Andrew Bynum a dirty player? In the strictest of interpretations, yes, but there are varying degrees of dirty. In the grand scheme of things, a hard foul here or there is wash your hands before supper dirty, not radiation shower dirty. Outside of a few incidents which can no longer be proclaimed as isolated, Drew generally plays the game the right way. He doesn't throw elbows on rebounds, he doesn't try to get away with little pushes, and he sure as hell doesn't flop or use cheap defensive tricks. What he does, on certain occassions when he finds himself out of position, is ensure that his opponent doesn't convert an easy basket by using excessive force. Prior to Friday's incident, I was willing to chalk these hard fouls up to laziness and poor judgment, but now we have to at least include willingness to be vicious in the attempt to create an aura of intimidation. The question is: How do you feel about this?
As we do with most controversial topics, we need a quick reminder about how this game is played. There are no right and wrong answers here. The only crime of thought that can be committed is the crime of inconsistency. If you think violence has no place in basketball whatsoever, then you need to (wo)man up and say so in regards to AB's penchant for the rough stuff. If you are OK with AB laying someone down on occasion, or at least you accept it as being a part of the game, then you have no right to bitch when any other player does the same to a member of the Lakers, or anybody else. When someone makes a dirty play, the crime is the play, not the color of the uniform making it. If you want to jump in the conversation, consistency is the only requirement.. Oh, and respect for the other side, too.
With that public service announcement out of the way, let's get to the heart of the matter. What is your opinion on the presence of violence in basketball? We're talking game related here, because I think we can all agree that actual fights can't serve any purpose at all, but how do you feel about the hard foul? How about the really, really hard foul that can not be described as a basketball play?
Let's start with what Kobe Bryant thinks. Kobe went on record as saying he was proud of Andrew for taking the flagrant foul. He said it earned Andrew his stripes. While Kobe's opinion on the matter is sure to raise some eyebrows, and feed the unquenchable fire that is the Kobe Bryant internet debate, what it says to me is two things, both of which are important in determining the merit and value of the type of behavior that Bynum is capable of exhibiting. First off, Kobe's response can not be considered a surprise, though his willingness to put that response on the record is mildly surprising. Kobe is undoubtedly a win at all costs type of dude, and while he's not really known for hard fouls, he does have a bit of a reputation for little cheap shots here and there. If AB has a mean streak, Kobe has a mean vein, because he believes that edge makes a difference between achieving success and not. The other inherent truth made apparent by Kobe's remarks is that this type of play really does have benefits. Hard fouls and cheap shots create a reputation, and if that reputation makes an opposing player hesitate in the slightest in attacking the rim, it must be labeled sadly beneficial.
It is no coincidence that some of the best defensive players in the history of the game all had their fair share of disciplinary issues. Dennis Rodman never had a problem with taking a hard, dangerous foul, to say nothing of his Bad Boy brethren Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. Dikembe Mutumbo had a well known "elbow problem". Dwight Howard does today. Ron Artest used to be both mean and crazy, although these days he is much more the latter than the former. Bruce Bowen is considered by many to be the worst kind of dirty, because he was (alledgedly) specifically willing to hurt people by crowding jump shots and sliding under folk in order to put the fear of a sprained ankle into the shooter (and by putting the fear of sprained ankle, I mean actually spraining their ankle sometimes). That's quite a list of shutdown players and Defenders of the Year, all of whom believed that a little violence and underhandedness went a long way in creating a reputation that might intimidate opposing players.
Personally, I'm not a fan. I've never been an ends justifies the means kind of guy, especially when the ends includes potentially injuring people. I would just as soon have Andrew Bynum remove this stuff from his repertoire. I understand the real world dictates its uses, and that there are other teams that deal just as much, if not more, in intimidation as the Lakers do. I understand that AB's play does go a long way towards dispelling the notion that the Lakers can be pushed around. But I'm ideological enough to be more willing to lose the right way than win the wrong way.
So, for what it's worth, here is one vote against any further "intimidation" on the part of Andrew Bynum.