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While Lakers wait, Bynum faces surgery

Jackson weighs in on possible Western Conference finals opponents as the center prepares for operation on his knee this week.

May 19, 2008|Jonathan Abrams | Times Staff Writer

The Lakers avoided a Game 7 and now can wine and dine while others tussle to play them. Surgery for Andrew Bynum, however, is another matter.

The team disclosed Sunday that Bynum would undergo arthroscopic surgery Wednesday on his injured left knee.

The rest of the Lakers bought themselves some time with their series clincher over the Utah Jazz on Friday, which meant that the same Wednesday as the surgery would be the start of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center.

That leaves tonight for watching Game 7 between the New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs in a series that could signify a passing of the torch from the aging to the up-and-coming.

And to the victors, a chance to play the Lakers.

Phil Jackson used Sunday to contemplate each team's distinctions and drawbacks.

"They've been through a lot of heavy battles over the last three years with that group of guys that they are real comfortable with," Jackson said of the Spurs.

"They've got pretty much a known answer to a variety of problems. They're the oldest team in the league, and that weighs a lot in the experience factor. It also weighs against them in just the recovery aspect of it.

"On the other side, you've got a very young team, full of confidence and very capable, very athletic, that has a combination of driving and shooting capabilities. . . . So, we've got two teams that are very competent, very proficient."

The tipping point may be the venue, with the game tonight in the Big Easy. The Hornets are 6-0 there this postseason, and the home-court team is 22-2 in the second round.

The Hornets have run through the Spurs by an average of nearly 20 points in the three games at New Orleans Arena during the series. Hornets forward David West is expected to play after sitting out the end of Game 6 because of a sore back, provided by a Robert Horry pick.

"If I was the Lakers, I would like to play New Orleans just because of the coaching matchup and because of their so-called inexperience, which I think is a little overrated," said an NBA advance scout who is not authorized by his team to speak without anonymity.

"You wouldn't mind San Antonio being a little emotionally fatigued and a little older. But, you never wish to face the defending champions."

Whomever they face, it has long been clear that the Lakers will do so without Bynum.

His surgery is scheduled for Wednesday in New York by Dr. David Altcheck. It will involve cleaning up rough spots in his knee and some fraying underneath the kneecap.

A team spokesman said that the Lakers on Wednesday will release a report of the surgery and estimated timeline of Bynum's return.

Bynum has been out since Jan. 13 because of a bone bruise in the knee and a subluxation of the kneecap -- a brief dislocation that popped back into place.

"It's always been kind of a nebulous area ever since the first couple of weeks after his [injury]; it's always been, is this going to be something that's going to be the end result?" Jackson said. "We hope it's going to be the end result of the knee injury that he had."

Only a handful of Lakers were on hand for an informal practice Sunday that involved scrimmaging, shooting and conditioning.

Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher were given the day off. Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic came in for treatment.

"Sasha got banged around a little bit," Jackson said. "Pau's ankle. Kobe's back. Lamar's knee. You just go down the list of things that go on and players have to maintain it. There's just nagging injuries that go on through this time of the year, and you want them to be as healthy as possible."

Vujacic experienced a bit of whiplash in Game 6, taking a charge against Utah's Paul Millsap and banging his head against the court.

"Everybody was teasing me and joking around in the locker room afterward, but it was worth it," Vujacic said. "We got away with a win and it was great."

And what was the teasing about?

"My first charge of the year and stuff like that," he said.

The team plans to again congregate for dinner tonight and watch the game that determines its next opponent.

Before the last two series, Bryant has picked up the bill. If he doesn't this time, there is another way to settle the tab, forward Luke Walton said.

"We like to play a little credit-card roulette, where everybody throws their credit card in a hat," he said. "Last person out gets to pay. It may be a little more fun to do it that way anyway."

Or, of course, another option . . .

"Either that or we'll make Coby Karl, the rookie, pick it up."

--

jonathan.abrams@latimes.com

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