OAKLAND, Calif. – In the latest episode of the Los Angeles Lakers' long-running soap opera, suddenly 3-point-happy center Andrew Bynum was sent to the pine for not playing "the right way," one game after Kobe Bryant was benched.
Bynum made the first 3-pointer of his seven-year career in seven attempts in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday. Feeling suddenly confident in his deep jumper, the All-Star surprisingly tossed up another that didn't fall as the Lakers held a 56-50 lead with 10:05 left in the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. Bynum was sent to the bench shortly after the ill-fated shot and appeared to play uninspired while missing all three field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter before sitting out the final 9:10 of the Lakers' 104-101 victory.
"I don't know what was bench-worthy about the shot, to be honest with you," said Bynum, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes. "I made one last [game] and wanted to make another one. I swear that's it. I guess [coach Mike Brown] took offense to it and he put me on the bench."
That's where Bynum sulked. He didn't join the huddle during timeouts after being sidelined.
Bynum expects the coach to address the issue with him formally at some point. Brown declined to answer if Bynum's 3-point attempt was the reason he benched him, but he doesn't appear afraid of sitting him again if need be.
"If I feel like I have to take him out the game again, I'll take him out the game," Brown told Yahoo! Sports. "If I don't feel like he's playing the right way, I'll take him out the game. I didn't feel like he was playing the right way. I didn't feel like we were playing the right way as a club when he was on the floor. That's why I took him out the game."
Bynum's pouting appears to be over his desire to expand his game. He said he has developed a jump shot and different post moves. He won't be afraid to fire away again from long range.
"I guess don't take 3's is the message. But I'm going to take some more," Bynum said. "I just hope it's not the same result. I hope that I make it."
Bynum wanted to have a stronger role offensively after last season. He's currently the Lakers' second-leading scorer behind Bryant with 18.2 points per game.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol said Bynum's 3-point shooting is "not his game," and he expects his teammate to do "the right thing."
"We'll address it as a team and unit to make sure everybody is on the same page," Gasol said. "We need Andrew at his best for us to have a chance. That's the only way we are going to get it down."
In his younger days, Kobe Bryant often tested the limits of his game with coaches. An older and wiser Bryant wants to see the conflict with Bynum addressed with patience and poise. Bryant chuckled when told Bynum wanted to shoot more 3's.
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"It is somewhat amusing to me," said Bryant, who entered the NBA out of high school in 1996. "In some ways the edginess and chippiness of him makes it very easy for me to relate to him because I had some of that when I was young. It's easy for me to see where he is coming from."
Brown benched Bryant during part of the fourth quarter Sunday in a loss to the Grizzlies. While the All-Star and Brown downplayed the incident, the coach acknowledged that anything controversial involving Bryant will always receive big headlines. Bryant responded on the court Tuesday, making two late well-contested, double-teamed jumpers to seal the Lakers' win while finishing with a game-high 30 points.
"Those are shots that I work on time and time again," Bryant said. "So it was just about me getting to my spot."
Through all the drama, the Lakers (31-19) remain in third-place in the Western Conference and appear to be better with newcomer point guard Ramon Sessions. Bryant is "extremely" happy with the roster and even took a shot at his cross-town rival Los Angeles Clippers. "Why does everybody acting like we are in eighth place?" Bryant asked. "You guys [the media] were kissing the Clippers' ass at the start of the season and now here we are in the third seed and everybody is acting like we suck. I don't understand."
For now, the conversation won't be on the Clippers or Bryant's reaction toward a benching. Instead, the soap opera's spotlight will be on how far Andrew Bynum strays from the paint to take a jumper.
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