Bynum '100 Percent Sure' He'll Play, but How Effective Will He Be?
The Lakers center, who has been playing in the postseason on a torn right meniscus, tweaked his knee in Game 3 last Tuesday against Boston and limped through Thursday's Game 4, managing just two points and three rebounds in 12 minutes. Now, Bynum is ready to give it the old college try even if he never did go to college.
"It will depend on how I feel when I get out there for the jump ball,'' Bynum said Saturday about how much he will be able to play in the pivotal Game 5 in which the teams enter tied 2-2. "(If feeling good), I should be able to play a heavy load of minutes. But (not) if I get out there and it buckles and it's crazy.''
Bynum, who said he has scheduled surgery on his knee for early July, had the knee drained after Thursday's 96-89 loss and had an MRI on Friday, with doctors determining he had suffered no additional structural damage. Bynum also had his knee drained at the start of the Finals, but said the swelling returned within a few days.
"I couldn't make a quad muscle,'' Bynum said of the swelling being so bad after Game 4. "It was either not play (Sunday) or just drain it (again).''
Bynum said it also helps that the Lakers have two days off between Games 4 and 5. They had only one day between Games 3 and 4.
"We're still optimistic that he's going to give it a shot and see how he does,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Saturday. "We have a day to work with him. He's had a day of therapy, and he can start getting some movement and maybe start activating himself (Sunday).''
Bynum spoke to his doctor on Friday, and said he was told he should be OK for Game 5 "as long as the swelling doesn't come back like it has been.'' Bynum said he was doing fine Saturday but he hadn't been on the knee much since Game 4.
The 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum said he will have surgery on the knee in the first week of July, although the exact date has not been set. But he's expected to be fully ready by training camp.
"The rehab isn't that bad,'' Bynum said. "Between two and five weeks. (It will be) more in the five-week range because of my size.''
Still, there remain questions whether there's any chance Bynum could do further damage to his knee if he continues to play on it in the Finals. After all, Bynum is just 22, and is expected by many to later this decade be the NBA's second-best center after Orlando's Dwight Howard.
Bynum said he's also been told there's no additional risk on continuing to play. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak feels confident about allowing Bynum to resume playing.
"There are no guarantees,'' said Kupchak, who suffered a torn left ACL as a player in the early 1980s and said his knee is so bad he eventually will need to have it replaced. "I think we know that anything can happen on a basketball court, but it is our understanding that this is something, providing it doesn't get worse, he can play with until it gets addressed during the offseason ... (Bynum's injury and his July surgery) should not impact training camp next year.''
But Lakers point guard Derek Fisher said he has expressed to Bynum the long-term aspects of his career are more important than anything short-term in these Finals.
"We don't have interest in Andrew doing anything that jeopardizes his future,'' Fisher said. "So there's not any pressure from us to do anything that would further damage his knee and limit his ability to have the great career he'll have for another 10 to 12 years. That would be my biggest message (to Bynum).''
Bynum is intent on making up for the 2008 Finals, when he was out with a knee injury and the Celtics took advantage of it in winning 4-2. Bynum had plenty of frustration watching Thursday as the Boston reserve big man Glen Davis scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half, helped by Bynum not being in the game.
"The layups that (Davis) got could have been altered,'' Bynum said of had he been out there, also saying the Lakers "so to speak, choked,'' in losing a five-point third-quarter lead Thursday.
The 6-foot-9, 289-pound Davis didn't agree Bynum would have made a noticeable difference against him, saying, "I still would have done what I'd done.'' But Boston center Kendrick Perkins doesn't deny his team has an advantage if Bynum continues to be noticeably limited.
"He brings shot blocking,'' Perkins said. "He makes them long, and they're not as long when he's in there. And with Lamar (Odom) at the four and (Pau) Gasol at the five, they kind of got like a small lineup a little bit. So it's to our advantage a little bit.''
It's hard to complain about the job done by the 7-foot Gasol, the starting power forward who slides to center when Bynum is out. He's averaging 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the series.
Odom, a 6-10 power forward, has been another story. He's been mostly paranormal in the Finals, averaging 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.
"It's too late to even worry about that,'' the low-key Odom said of his slow start while not offering any particular declaration he will step it up.
Bynum, though, is hoping he will feel good enough to make a difference in Game 5. Despite still being very young, he doesn't mind all the focus on him and his knee.
"I embrace it,'' Bynum said. "I know what I need to do out on the court and I just want to go out there and be effective. If I do that, if I give us some good minutes out there, we'll just have a great shot of winning the game.''
But Bynum couldn't give a "100 percent'' guarantee that he will be effective Sunday.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson