Lakers' Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom each trying to fight through their injuries
Lakers center Andrew Bynum walked toward a small group of reporters after practice Saturday with little sign of concern or dissapointment. He had just learned of the MRI results that confirmed his strained left Achilles' tendon that will sideline him for at least the next four games. It's a procedure he's all too familiar with, what with his left-knee injury in the 2006-07 season, his right-knee injury last season and his hip injury this season. But he remained in high spirits this time around, initially thinking the injury would be a lot worse.
"I'm not frustrated," said Bynum, who injured his tendon running up the court in the third quarter in the Lakers' 104-96 victory Friday over the Minnesota Timberwolves. "I just want to get back to play."
The exact timetable on that return isn't currently clear with Bynum saying "it depends how long it takes for the pain to go away." Bynum is scheduled to get another evaluation sometime in the next week, but it isn't definitive whether that will take place during the team's five-game trip beginning this week or when the Lakers return after playing Atlanta March 31. If it's after the trip, as Bynum expects, he would miss at least six games, meaning the earliest return date would be April 2 when the Lakers host Utah.
Meanwhile, Bynum is taking medicine to help alleviate the pain that extends from his calf muscle in his left leg to his Achilles, but he said he has abstained from painkillers. The rest of his treatment entails alternating ice and heat compression, laser therapy and wearing a boot.
Bynum plans to actually flying with the team during its five-game trip, saying he's eager to be with his teammates and is looking forward to visits with former Laker and current Houston forward Trevor Ariza and a friend who's a doctor in Houston. (The Lakers play the Rockets next Saturday).
Bynum's news comes to a team that has a pretty full injury report with all but Luke Walton (pinched nerve in lower back) playing through their respective injuries. That includes Kobe Bryant (fractured index finger), Ron Artest (sore left thumb), Lamar Odom (sore left shoulder), Derek Fisher (groin/hip area) Shannon Brown (sore right thumb), Pau Gasol (tonsillitis) and Sasha Vujacic (sprained left shoulder). Lakers Coach Phil Jackson told reporters Saturday that Odom, who will start in Bynum's place Sunday against Washington, is "doing some work with his shoulder." Meanwhile, Fisher was excused from practice, though he is expected to play tomorrow.
With Bynum being the latest victim of the injury bug, he couldn't help but note the fact he had just thought he turned a corner with his knee and hip injuries. Bynum had also been averaging 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 56.8% shooting this month.
"It kind of [stinks] especially because I did an interview the other day about my health," Bynum said with a smile. "I think I'll be all right though."
Jackson noticed Bynum had the same even-keel approach immediately after his latest injury. With frustrations often getting the best of Bynum, I asked Jackson whether his optimistic outlook served as an example of his growth in handling adversity. He didn't exactly say one way or the other, but Jackson shared that the two joked about how the injury happened.
"There wasn't as much remorse and ruing the fact that it happened and what it could possibly have been," Jackson said. "I was kind of pleased with that."
Odom dutifully noted the media's approach with him Saturday, which included us striking a conversation with him about his recent commercials and then shifting to his left shoulder injury.
"You softened me up so you could ask me how my shoulder is," Odom said, laughing.
Yet, his left shoulder sprain isn't actually anything new. Jackson mentioned the injury following the Lakers' 104-96 victory Friday over the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Odom said the injury happened Feb. 18 against Boston. In that game, Odom dunked over Ray Allen with a one-handed slam. Replays show that it looks like Odom hung on the rim and extended his shoulder. I can't say that definitively and my assessment isn't really all that credible. I'm just sharing what I thought I saw when I looked at the replay.
Regardless, Odom says he won't use the injury as an excuse, though he admitted, "I don't expect to the shoot the ball well; I don't expect to rebound well because of that quick motion, but I can still play basketball." With the Lakers trying to contend for a championship, Odom said he has not other choice but to put off resting his shoulder until the offseason. And as for whether Odom's minutes would be limited because of the injury, Jackson said he would only apply that approach if Odom's shoulder feels numb. Jackson said he wouldn't follow that strategy strictly to limit Odom's vulnerability, however.
With Odom suffering this injury almost a month ago, there aren't many visible signs the shoulder has negatively affected his play. Though he's averaged only 11.5 points in the 13 games since he injured his shoulder, it's a fairly misleading statistic. Five of those games featured single-digit efforts, suggesting those efforts just confirm his reputation for lumping a few quiet nights between big performances.
"It's something that I've tried to condition myself to play through," Odom said of injuries. "I've damaged it twice already so there's really not that much treatment ... I don't like to talk about it, but the part I hate about the injury the most is when I go and call on it and it may not answer me. I may go to the basketball, make a strong a move and my shoulder will say, 'No, not this time.' "
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Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum has the upper hand for an offensive rebound in a battle with Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love during the first half Friday night. Credit: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times.