Monday, December 6, 2010
Updated: December 7, 10:00 AM ET
Andrew Bynum aiming for December
By Dave McMenamin
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Pinning a specific date to Los Angeles Lakers big man Andrew Bynum's impending comeback from offseason knee surgery has been a bit like playing darts.
Every day that passes represents taking a step closer to the dart board and hitting nearer and nearer to the return date bull's-eye.
After Bynum's second-straight successful full-court practice Monday, the sixth-year center narrowed down his window.
"Everything is going well," Bynum said. "I haven't felt too much pain. I'm ready for basketball. I hope to play in December."
Bynum said he wants to participate in a "couple more practices" before playing in a game to improve his timing and what he describes as "quick jumping," or the jump after a jump, when he's battling in the lane for a rebound or put back.
"I want to get enough practices in just so it's not too foreign when I do get into a game, I'm able to kind of get up to pace," Bynum said.
The problem is waiting for a couple of practices could mean Bynum will be waiting a couple of weeks before he finally suits up. The Lakers have back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday against Washington and the Clippers. Thursday is a travel day that begins their six-game, 11-day road trip.
There isn't likely to be much team practice time included in the trip. Los Angeles plays Chicago on Friday and could practice Saturday in advance of Sunday's game against New Jersey, but the team is staying overnight in Chicago rather than flying out after the game which is their usual practice, so they'll have a late start to the day in New Jersey.
Their next non-game day doesn't occur until Dec. 16 following a back-to-back in Washington and Indiana, so that day won't likely include practice either. Realistically, the best chance of a full practice with the team on the road won't happen until Dec. 18, the day before they finish their trip in Toronto.
"If we were here it would probably be sooner, but since we're on the road it might be a little longer," Bynum said.
The first home games for L.A. after the trip are Dec. 21 against Milwaukee, followed by the Christmas Day showdown with the Miami Heat.
"He's coming right along," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said. "He went through every aspect of our practice. He's putting himself through all his paces and asking for double-time to really work on his conditioning ... He's nearing the time where we'll be very serious about him going on and playing."
Jackson continued to refrain from hitting the bull's-eye, however.
"I just can't put a date [on it]," Jackson said. "I know there's a date thrown out there. I just can't imagine it will be that long. I don't want to inhibit any progress."
The team had Sunday off, but Bynum came in on his own for a leg workout and on-court drills with assistant coach Chuck Person.
He has not experienced any swelling or irritation as the intensity of his workouts increases, moving up the time table for his comeback, even if a specific date has yet to be selected.
"It's a little bit ahead of schedule for me," Bynum said. "I was thinking really, really, really late December, maybe even early January, and I think I'm a little bit ahead of schedule.
"I think the surgery went well. I thank my doctor [Dr. David Altchek] for that. He said that I would be OK and I am."
Meanwhile, Pau Gasol, who has been filling in at center while Bynum's been out, practiced Monday after sitting out over the weekend to rest his strained left hamstring.
"I'm a lot better with these two days of rest," Gasol said. "I was able to practice pretty well. I'm happy with it ... It was a great chance for me to recover and get that spark back."
Last season, Gasol missed 17 games with strains to both hamstrings, but appears to have recovered without missing any game action this time around.
Jackson was pleased with how well Gasol played as well as his refreshed attitude.
"His mood was so much better today," Jackson said. "It was really nice to see. I think he would kind of like to be playing European soccer, like 40 games in a season instead of 82. But no, he was vastly more alive today and feeling a lot better. In fact, he didn't even mention the hamstring."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Brian Kamenetzky of the Land O' Lakers blog contributed to this report.