There will be a new NBA champion this season. Too bad the old one went out like a loser.
It’s one thing for the Los Angeles Lakers to lose, 122-86, to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 of the Western Conference semi-finals, giving the Mavs a series sweep over the two-time defending NBA champs. No NBA team had ever won a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0; although you’d expect more fight out of the Lakers, the truth is that they weren’t going to win the series anyway. The sick shooting of Dallas’ Jason Terry, who tied an NBA playoff record with nine three-pointers in the game, sapped all hope out of L.A.
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But you don’t have to act like punks. In the fourth quarter, Laker Lamar Odom — who at this point is better known as Khloe Kardashian’s husband, a distinction that doesn’t speak well for his hoops game — stuck a shoulder into Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, who torched the Lakers all series long. Odom was tossed from the game. Then, just 45 seconds later, J.J. Barea of Dallas snaked into the foul lane and leapt in the air for a running layup. While in midair, Lakers center Andrew Bynum stuck an elbow in Barea’s chest. On most intentional fouls, the defender at least pretends he’s going for the ball. Bynum made no such effort; it was the cheapest of cheap shots. Barea crashed to the ground, clutching his arms. He’s fortunate that he wasn’t seriously hurt. The ref ejected Bynum immediately.
Bynum removed his shirt. (Wow, what a tough guy.) He needed security to escort him off the floor; the Dallas fans and players relished jeering him. Compared to other sports, basketball is not a violent game. But it’s a physical one, and no athlete exposes himself to injury more than an airborne player, whose eyes are focused on the rim. They’re not expecting a blind-side shot to the chest. Bynum tried to take down a defenseless player. It was a disgusting act.
What a sad way for Phil Jackson, who coached the Lakers and Chicago Bulls to a record 11 titles in his 20-year NBA coaching career, to go out. He has said that this is his last season. Jackson himself hasn’t shown a ton of class this series. Before the game, the NBA fined him $35,000 for griping about the refs — Jackson is famous for badmouthing officials — and as Odom and Bynum disgraced pro basketball, Jackson didn’t exactly appear shocked or enraged. Jackson looked mentally checked out. And now his team is checking out of the playoffs. Good riddance.