Andrew Bynum will play when his conditioning level allows.
But he is making progress in his attempted comeback with the Pacers – so much so, in fact, that it was news that he missed practice Wednesday.
Bynum said he had made it through 16 consecutive days of rehab, conditioning, practices and workouts before experiencing a mild flareup in his knee.
“Two practices last week and one we had a full practice and after that one I was pretty sore but that was to be expected,” Bynum said. “It was my first (full practice) in a month-and-a-half. Same symptoms as in Cleveland, it’s just that it is what it is with my knee.
“It’s not a setback. We expected it and just deal with it.”Bynum appears much more relaxed and comfortable than in his first few days with the Pacers – and possibly since his time with the Lakers. By all accounts, he has been a diligent and eager worker and is anxious to get back on the court.
He has accepted the knee will be a limitation for however long his career continues, but that’s not a crippling problem here as it was in Philadelphia and Cleveland, places where he was expected to return to some level of dominance and he just wasn’t physically capable.
All the Pacers want from Bynum is solid 12-14 minutes a game behind Roy Hibbert. If the knee flares up and he needs an occasional game off, Ian Mahinmi is always available.
“I want to see him get on the court and compete because I think he’ll help us,” Hibbert said. “Until that happens, I’m just going to keep on supporting him. He works really hard.”
Mahinmi has played much better of late, averaging 6.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots off the bench in the last four games, so if Bynum’s signing accomplishes nothing more than to motivate the original backup center, consider it a success.
In other words, the weight of great expectation from Bynum has been lifted, which could explain the smile.
“We have a lot of talent on this team, really deep, and whatever minutes I get I’m just going to play hard,” he said. “It kind of makes it easier to play well in the sense that you know you have somebody there to back you up so you don’t have to worry about getting tired or anything like that.
“You just play hard and whatever you get, you get; everybody brings something to the table. That’s why this team wins and that’s the philosophy that it takes to do good.”
He and Hibbert have struck up a relationship but the Pacers in general have created a welcoming atmosphere. There was initial concern Bynum’s presence could strain the Pacers’ cohesion. Instead, the locker room culture has been therapeutic for him.
“This team has great chemistry and I just fit in here,” he said. “Everybody cracks jokes on each other. Nobody’s sensitive, not to the point that it boils over.”
Just when might we expect to see Bynum on the court? Depends on who you ask.
Frank Vogel is taking a conservative approach.
“It’s going to be a matter of balancing the workload associated with getting into game conditioning with the soreness that comes along with his knees,” the coach said. “It’s something we’re going to balance the rest of the way.”
Bynum, on the other hand, hopes to hit the court within a week.
“At this point, it’s only conditioning on the court and that’s going to be at max a week,” he said. “But I’m ready. Whenever they tell me I can play, I will.”
You get the sense whatever Bynum has left, he’s eager to give the Pacers.