As Brian wrote earlier, Phil Jackson clarified Sunday's frustrated tone about the delayed recovery of Andrew Bynum. Watching PJ speak before the Indiana game, his vibe certainly felt like someone trying not-so-subtly to kick a player into fifth gear. But today, whether because he was just in a different mood or was aware of the reaction to his statements, Phil went out of his way to make clear he has no beef with Bynum. The center was described as a very "willing worker" in his rehab and Jackson dropped no hints about Bynum perhaps being more able than willing to step on the floor.
Instead, it's the situation annoying Jackson. He's watching helplessly as the wear and tear builds for Lamar Odom and especially Pau Gasol, and he's helpless to do anything about it. Theo Ratliff isn't close to a return from knee surgery. Derrick Caracter isn't ready to handle Theo's 8.4 minutes. And Bynum's ETA remains stubbornly in flux. That's a tough situation for a coach to sit by and watch.
It's like in Mommie Dearest, when Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) discovers dirt underneath an indoor plant, takes matters into her own hands with some furious scrubbing, and when the maid apologizes, Crawford replies, "I'm not mad at you, Helga. I'm mad at the dirt." (Were she telling the truth, that is, because we all knew this unbalanced clean freak was in fact mad at Helga. Mad as hell, really. But you get what I'm saying.)
For his part, Drew played four-on-four halfcourt ball Monday, and even set up Shannon Brown on a kick out from the post for a scrimmage-winning 3-pointer. I also witnessed a few nice post moves against Caracter, and his hands were quick deflecting baseline or interior passes. But as he noted, "quick change of lateral movement" actions remain somewhat painful, and his timing isn't quite right. He expressed an eagerness to keep working with teammates to discover a flow, and to maintain effort without swelling.
"I just think I need to go through a week of practice," Bynum said. "That’s my big thing, to be able to do that with no swelling. As little pain as possible, and no swelling. Those would be my two big things. And back-to-back — I still haven’t done two workouts in a row on the court, full out. So (the upcoming trip) is going to give me the opportunity to do that, and see what happens. I still have a couple tests to pass, and after I do that I’ll be back."
Drew estimated the wait as another 2-3 weeks. In a vacuum, that actually sounds reasonable, but I'm nonetheless keeping my fingers crossed and expectations grounded. I've often joked there's no less reliable source on the planet to gauge Andrew Bynum's body than Andrew Bynum. He's not quite Ron Artest, but still typically opts for stream of consciousness over measured calculation while relaying thoughts. Thus, his statements are often best garnished with a hefty dose of salt.
Even if Bynum weren't on the flighty side, he's understandably cautious after a string of injuries. This history has him dead set on avoiding re-injury if at all possible, and that desire to remain healthy was emphasized heavily throughout the conversation.
As for Gasol, he continues to take the situation in stride. And while the minutes are clearly taxing, he seemed equally worn down by questions about his workload as the workload itself. Ever the polite professional, he answered the questions, but it was clear the topic has grown stale for him. There was a smile, however, when BK asked, on a night where Pau's playing 45 minutes anyway, if he ever tells PJ just to play him the entire 48.
A conversation about Tuesday's opponent bore more fruit. Between his roots with the franchise and his brother, their center, he's more familiar with the Memphis Grizzlies than the average bear (pun intended). Like PJ, he hasn't gotten a real bead on O.J. Mayo coming off the bench, but thought the guard looked a little uncomfortable in the action he has witnessed. I also asked if games against his former squad are still an emotional experience.
Once the ball is jumped, not so much. But beforehand, absolutely, and that feeling may linger to some degree forever.
"It'll always be there no matter what," admitted Gasol.
More from Jackson about Gasol's minutes, how Ron Artest's selflessness regarding Matt Barnes' PT has backfired (very funny), and the loss to Indiana:
More again from PJ, this time on Derek Fisher's role as Player's Association President, his frequent (and inexpensive) fines, Gasol's evolution since arriving in L.A., and Shannon Brown's mini-shooting slump: