Andrew Bynum stood holding a basketball on his hip after the Sixers' practice Monday, talking about where he is in his rehabilitation process concerning his sore knees, knees that have been diagnosed with bone bruises and missing cartilage.
It is going well, Bynum said. I am feeling a lot less pain, progressing on the treadmill. I will start running soon so it is going pretty good.
On Dec. 20 Bynum was cleared for low impact conditioning by knee specialist Dr. David Altchek. Two days later the Sixers left for their grueling eight-game road swing where they won two and lost six. Bynum stayed back in Philadelphia to perform his daily routine.
I come in, I get on the treadmill for 20 minutes. Right now it is all walking, a fast-paced walk, Bynum explained. Then I get on the bike and do a bunch of leg stuff with no weights, just all body-weight stuff, just trying to get that cartilage to grind up more and then the better I feel, the more we add.
There is no basketball activity yet -- standstill shooting and running on the treadmill are coming soon Bynum said.
Fast-paced walking is not exactly what Sixers fans were hoping to hear the all-star center was doing on Jan. 7, 2013. The season is 35 games old and the Sixers are five games below .500. Fans want to know help is on the way soon, but Bynum cant promise that.
It has taken a long time but everything the doctor has said has been right so he said just take your time and the pain will go down, so I am pretty sure I will be back, Bynum said, unwilling to give a timetable but optimistic he will don a Sixers uniform this season.
Bynum is in the final year of his contract. He has missed, on average, 25 games in each of his seven NBA seasons. In each of the last five seasons he has averaged double-figure points and no fewer then eight rebounds per game. Last year he averaged career-highs with 19 points and 12 rebounds. When healthy, he is a talent 30 NBA teams would covet. But how healthy will he be and does he need to prove it?
Obviously if you ask me max (contract) or something like that I am going to have to come back and prove myself all over again, Bynum admitted. That is what this league is about -- what you have done for me 30 seconds ago versus anything else. I am not worried about that, I know what caliber of player I am and I know I can get back and play this game effectively.
Doug Collins and Bynums teammates have spent little time this season talking about what could have been had the seven-footer been on the court with them. They prefer to try and figure out a way to play winning basketball with the guys who can take the court. But with hope on the horizon, both the coach and his players dared to think about the possibilities that could occur in the latter part of this season.
Defensively, obviously we would have a presence down there., Jrue Holiday said, his eyes wide and a grin on his face. Obviously Spencer (Hawes) is our leading shot blocker, but I think we would have more of a presence having a guy that would alter shots at the basket.
Obviously he can play any big by himself, Holiday continued. Offensively he is probably the most skilled big man in the game;, those extra points, those extra free throws, those easy buckets where you can just throw it at the rim and no one else can get them. But you never know until he gets back out there.
Holiday continues to lead the Sixers in scoring and assists with 18.4 and 8.9, respectively.
It is always easy to come in and say if we had had Andrew tonight we would have won, but what message is that sending to your guys? Collins said. I think that is the wrong message to send. The NBA is all about opportunities, everybody goes through injuries and obviously this has been a devastating one for us because we made a huge investment in the offseason. We just have to hope and pray that this is going to give us a situation where if he is able to come back there will be enough games for us to fight ourselves into the playoffs.
The crazy thing is the Sixers are just two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, the very spot they captured last spring when they came one win shy of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
E-mail Dei Lynam at firstname.lastname@example.org