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Lakers maintain long-term perspective on Andrew Bynum's recovery

April 6, 2010 |  4:35 pm


With scattered reporters trailing behind, Lakers center Andrew Bynum made his way toward the exit of the Lakers' training facility as quickly as possible. The media had tried catching up, hoping they'd learn any morsel of news regarding Bynum's strained left Achilles tendon, which has sidelined him for the last eight games. Bynum had tried speeding away, hoping he wouldn't have to answer such questions. In all fairness, he also was on his way to a charity event with the YMCA.

When asked how he feels, Bynum said "about the same," before exiting the facility.

That left others to answer questions about Bynum's indefinite future, including whether he'd return in time for the regular season.

"There's discomfort after he does a certain amount of exercise," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said after Tuesday's practice. "I'm just not holding my breath on a timetable," meaning the Lakers aren't expecting him to play Thursday when the team visits Denver.

"We want him to be healthy," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. "That's when he'll hopefully come back, when he's 100%. We don't want him to get out there and go down again."

That was the mantra the Lakers reiterated during Tuesday's practice, that Bynum's indefinite return isn't necessarily a sign that his injury is worse than expected. Bynum had a second MRI on Monday that confirmed he still had a strained left Achilles tendon, and Jackson added that the test showed it was "inconclusive" on how consequential the injury is. The team had never provided a definitive timetable after Bynum strained the tendon March 19 in a game against Minnesota, other than he would get a second MRI after the team's five-day trip. But Jackson says he's sure of one thing.

"He doesn't see this as a serious thing that's going to linger," Jackson said of Bynum, "or have any ramifications for his future or for his career."

Of course that may not be comforting enough for Lakers fans who are all too familiar with Bynum's injury history. He had missed 46 games in the 2007-08 season because of a left-knee injury. He remained sidelined for 32 games last season because of a right-knee injury. Yet, despite Bynum's injuries, Jackson said he's maintained a positive outlook during the process. To make sure that was still the case, Jackson talked with Bynum Tuesday morning and guaranteed something that may release some anxiety from Lakers fans.

Said Jackson: "We'll take him whenever we get to the playoffs at that time."

Of course, news regarding any injury, not just Bynum's, has to be met with a grain of salt. There's always varying degrees of information withdrawn for competitive purposes, controlling the speculation and the general uncertainty regarding injuries. There's no information at this point to suggest Bynum's injury is incredibly serious, making the most pressing concerns to be how the Lakers will absorb his injury and how Bynum would get acclimated whenever he returns to the lineup.

Those were two issues Jackson, Odom and Lakers forward Pau Gasol acknowledged. They had similar answers on the effect that would have. The evidence I had presented earlier regarding the Lakers' dropoff in play through the first five games Bynum missed still holds true. The team brought up the inconsistent bench play, the lacking one-two punch he provided in the paint with Gasol and the never-ending struggle in establishing continuity.

And when he does come back, it's very likely, given his history, that Bynum won't replicate the same numbers he provided during those injuries. The Lakers don't expect Bynum to post 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 56.8% shooting, the month-long average he had before the injury. But Gasol says he didn't feel concerned.

"It won't be as hard as last year," Gasol said. "His injury is not as complicated as it was last year. He hasn't been out as long so it'll be easier."

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Andrew Bynum is expected to miss six games, which would include all of an upcoming five-game road trip, after injuring his Achilles tendon Friday night. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times