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Andrew Bynum's refusal to disclose a specific timetable shows maturity in handling rehab

December 6, 2010 |  6:52 pm

As Lakers center Andrew Bynum ran up and down the court, he couldn't help but notice how his wide-eyed personality contrasted with his teammates'.

"For me, it's like my first training camp," Bynum said after Monday's practice at the team's facility in El Segundo. "Everyone else is like, 'Ughh.' But I'm excited and I'm out here just trying to get back."

Bynum's youthful exuberance is understandable considering he's only 23, but sometimes that comes at a price, most notably regarding how candid he is with the media regarding his injuries. Yet, when asked after Monday's practice whether he has a specific timetable for his return, Bynum altered his usual candor and pleaded the fifth: "Not really. I just want to play within a month. I just want to get enough practices in just so it's not too far so when I do get in a game, I can pick up the pace."

That comes as a new and smart step in Bynum's growth on how he handles injuries, considering he's already altered his timetable three times this season, one for late November, early December and around Christmas. Whether or not he returns during the six-game trip that begins Friday at Chicago and ends Dec. 19 at Toronto remains to be seen, though he reported zero pain and swelling after participating Monday in a full-court five-on-five scrimmage. In the meantime, he appears to be making a better effort to stay on team message, as his vague timetable eerily echoed Phil Jackson's sentiment: "I just can't put a date. I know there's a date thrown out there, but I can't imagine it'd be that long. But I don't want to inhibit any progress."

Considering that I'm part of the media and have heard zillions of cliches, I would personally rather hear the old candor. But from a practical standpoint, it's a good thing Bynum isn't being so specific. That doesn't mean reporters shouldn't still ask questions about his injury and his current timetable. It doesn't mean we shouldn't still report any updates regarding injuries. And it doesn't mean we shouldn't still  press for more specific information. But I take zero offense when players, such as Kobe Bryant, refuse to discuss at length their wear and tear. Though it makes the information gathering a harder job for us, I understand why an athlete wants to keep the talk minimal.

Most coaches and players understand these questions are a necessary evil; most reporters just want to make sure they're covering their bases. But the process itself can be nauseating. They're opening  themselves up to more commentary about their injury and ineffectiveness. Providing estimated timetables seems to create more misinformation because then it's believed among the general public the player has experienced a medical setback when in fact the estimate was just incorrect. It reminds me of a classic Simpsons episode that featured the teachers' union going on strike. To feed the hysteria, Bart told one teacher that Principal Skinner believes "the teachers will crack any minute." After the news passed through six sources, Skinner's assessment soon translated to "The teachers will crack any minute, purple monkey dishwasher."

And most importantly, talking about injuries at length seems to provide a psychological effect on whether a player can truly tolerate the pain they're experiencing. 

There's never an exact science to this: Bryant knows his body pretty well, but keeps most in the dark about his state of being. Pau Gasol is also well versed in the medical field, but remains more open. But in Bynum's case, there's rarely a time when he's not hurt. And with the center appearing closer and closer to coming back, it's best to let his on-court action speak for itself. 

--Mark Medina

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