Two words come to mind after the Lakers were swept by the Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference semifinal series: heartless and classless.
The Lakers, the two-time defending champions and the model franchise for the past three decades in the NBA, did not display the heart of champion nor the poise of a champion in Game 4 at Dallas. The Mavericks eliminated the Lakers in spectacular fashion, dropping seemingly endless 3-pointers in a 122-86 win, ending the Lakers’ reign and sending Phil Jackson into early retirement.
What compounded the embarrassment was the way the Lakers reacted in the fourth quarter. With the game out of reach and with just nine minutes to play, Lakers forward Lamar Odom gave Mavs All-Star Dirk Nowitzki a hard shoulder check 23 feet from the basket. Odom’s flagrant foul resulted an ejection.
But that wasn’t enough. Moments later, Lakers center Andrew Bynum joined Odom in the locker room after he intentionally threw an elbow to the ribs of J.J. Barea as Barea drove to the basket, sending the Mavs guard to the floor hard. It was a dangerous move that could have ended Barea’s season. Mike Tirico called it “bushleague,” and Hubie Brown, one of the most respected men in the game, said “amen” to Tirico’s claim. It was a despicable act by a player who totally lost his cool and didn’t know how to accept defeat. It’s a loser’s mentality.
The cheap shots did not sit well with the Maverick, as well Laker legend Magic Johnson. Johnson said, “In Game 4, the Los Angeles Lakers embarrassed the organization by getting blown out by the Dallas Mavericks. Classless acts on physical and hard fouls by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. That should have never happened. You have to show class when you win, and you have to show class when you lose. And the Lakers did not show class in Game 4.”
Two games prior to Game 4, Ron Artest delivered a forearm shot to Barea’s head during the final moments of a Laker loss at Staples Center. It resulted in a one-game suspension for Artest, as he had to sit out Game 3.
Those three incidents have no place in basketball. Magic is completely right in saying that the Lakers were classless in defeat, which is a shame because it showed poor sportsmanship from all three players involved. There’s a different between hard fouls in the heat of the moment during a series when the games are still within reach, and cheap shots. Those were clearly cheap shots. There are unacceptable and it shows the true character of a person. It’s easy to ride the wave of emotion when things are going well, but it’s hard to swallow a bitter defeat. However, losing doesn’t give anyone the green light to start get violent against the competition.
Odom said he did what he did because he was embarrassed. Bynum said he wasn’t disappointed in himself for nearly sending Barea to the hospital. Well, if Bynum is not disappointed in himself then it is extremely disappointing to hear his response.