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Sunday, November 18, 2012
Bynum's career tottering like a pin

By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com

Andrew Bynum
Former Lakers teammates Andrew Bynum and Luke Walton talk things over before Sunday's game.
PHILADELPHIA -- In the middle of defending himself for simply trying to enjoy a Saturday night out at the bowling alley, Andrew Bynum offered some sobering honesty.

"I'm sure some people feel I shouldn't [have bowled]," Bynum said Sunday night. "But I'm kind of taking the position if that happened bowling, what happens dunking? I don't see anything wrong with going bowling."

Bynum has been questioned often for his judgment over the years. Whether it's partying at the Playboy Mansion, tearing off his jersey after being ejected from a playoff game or taking ill-advised 3-pointers, he has been routinely rapped on the knuckles for it. But just firing off easy punch lines to Bynum's admission that he further injured his knees by bowling last weekend might miss the real point.

This one isn't about Bynum's judgment, it's about the fragility of his multimillion-dollar knees. Bynum wasn't being immature or flippant when he said he didn't see a danger in bowling. He was concerned that his career is in the balance because even the most basic athletic activities are apparently a risk.

I'm kind of taking the position if that happened bowling, what happens dunking? I don't see anything wrong with going bowling.

-- Andrew Bynum

"I have an issue with my knees," Bynum said. "I've pretty much seen every specialist. … I have no idea [when I can return], I really don't. I'm playing it day-to-day, which is probably the wrong thing to do in this situation. I'm waiting for the docs to kind of give me something, and they're waiting for me to tell them my knees don't hurt."

Bynum said he didn't do anything abnormal when he apparently tore off some cartilage and bruised a bone in his left knee while bowling. He said he didn't slip or fall or convert a spare with a Playboy bunny on his shoulders, as he has been known to enjoy in the past. On this, we'll take his word.

To his credit, he has been open about what's going on with his knees since this recent trouble started, even calling a news conference to announce he had had a setback last week. He didn't say how he had suffered the damage until an ESPN story revealed it on Saturday, but once it was out he again called a news conference Sunday to further explain himself.

If he's being evasive or untruthful, it was not detectable. The emotion that came from Bynum was frustration and concern.

He just bowled and he got hurt, noticing swelling in his left knee (which had been the "good knee") when he got up last Sunday. Bynum has been through enough to know that swelling in his knees usually means bad news. Within 48 hours he was in an MRI machine for what must've felt like the 100th time since last summer. The results clearly shook him because those specialists don't seem to know how and why he's going through this now.

"Obviously that's the question, [bowling] is relatively nothing; it's three steps [and roll]," Bynum said. "That's the most important thing and why everyone is being so cautious. I can't answer and [the doctors] can't now either, we're trying to figure out what's going on."

One of the reasons what is happening with his knees is so concerning for both Bynum and the team is he hasn't had any major trauma. Last season he was relatively healthy, missing only one game because of injury. He wasn't having issues before he went to Germany in September to get cutting-edge treatment, which he said left him feeling pretty good. Then he had some lubrication injections, a routine event over the past few seasons.

But now he's in pain every day. His right knee started to hurt after a light workout when he practiced what he called an "up-and-under move." Now his left knee is hurting because of bowling. This has kept him out months. This has top doctors confused. This is a 25-year-old All-Star who was celebrated upon arrival as a franchise player who isn't sure when he can even practice again.

"Germany is one theory," Bynum said, talking about what has caused this cascade of bad news. "Or the injections. Or I have bad cartilage. I don't know."

The Sixers, meanwhile, are doing a good job of maintaining a positive and patient public stance. But behind the scenes they've got to be straining under each development. Every time Bynum goes to see his doctor in New York or the results of an MRI come back, it has been bad news.

The Sixers have moved Bynum's return date back three times. They didn't after this latest news, even though the hope that Bynum could be ready to get on the floor on Dec. 10 feels like a longshot. At this point, putting a date on it seems futile.

Sunday night, they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 86-79 to move to 6-4. Against the undermanned Cavs the Sixers' problems with rebounding and issues with scoring were survivable. At 6-4, they've kept themselves in decent shape. But their schedule for the six weeks after Thanksgiving is brutal -- 13 road games, two matchups each with the Thunder, Lakers, Celtics, Bulls and Nets -- and it looks almost assured that Bynum will miss all of that.

With a healthy Bynum there was a belief these Sixers could've been in line for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Without him so far, they seem very much like the team that barely snuck into the postseason the past few seasons.

The bowling aspect of this tale makes all of this unique, but no one in Philly is laughing.

"It sucks," Bynum said. "I just don't know what to expect."