Andrew Bynum turns 21 on Oct. 27. Then comes an even bigger date.
The Lakers have until Oct. 31 to sign Bynum to a five-year contract extension, though discussions with the team have been "few and not significant," according to Bynum's agent, David Lee.
"I just don't get it," Lee said. "I do not understand certain things that happen. Andrew has taken everything the Lakers have thrown at him, including criticism. He doesn't do anything to respond other than go on the court. He just goes on with his business."
Lee is traveling from New York to meet today with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak in hopes of working out a deal.
Bynum, who will make $2.8 million this season in the final year of his contract, can sign a five-year extension worth up to about $85 million, a figure that won't officially be determined until the NBA's salary cap for the 2009-10 season is announced next summer.
The Lakers currently do not plan on offering Bynum a maximum deal, and they want to gauge his health and on-court prowess over the final five exhibition games.
Bynum has said his surgically repaired left knee feels fine. He also said he didn't think too often about his contract situation.
"I know that the Lakers take their sweet time doing everybody's deals," he said Thursday. "I'm just going to be patient and keep waiting like I am."
Said Bynum's agent: "It has to get done by the 31st. Otherwise there are, of course, consequences under the collective bargaining agreement."
If the sides do not reach agreement by the end of this month, they can't negotiate again until Bynum becomes a restricted free agent July 1. He could then sign an offer sheet with another team, though the Lakers have the right to match that offer and retain him through the 2013-14 season.
If Bynum becomes a restricted free agent, the Lakers could offer a longer contract with more money than any other team because of the so-called "Bird rights," a part of the collective bargaining agreement that allows teams to make better offers to their own free agents than competing teams. For example, the Lakers next summer could offer Bynum more years than other teams (six compared with five) and larger annual salary increases (10.5% compared with 8%).
Kupchak and Coach Phil Jackson declined to comment specifically on negotiations with Bynum's agent, though Jackson spoke in general terms.
"I'm sure [Lee] is pressing them a little bit, but we're just watching 'Drew and making sure that he's making gains daily," Jackson said. "I thought [Wednesday] he went backward instead of forward. He was late to practice. He didn't really get himself involved in that practice. So he really lost a day as far as I was concerned."
Bynum averaged 17.3 points and 12.2 rebounds in six games in January before being sidelined because of a bone bruise in his knee and brief dislocation of the left kneecap. For the season, he averaged 13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots.
He has been slowly rounding into basketball shape in his first month back on the court and is still working on the timing that made him a force down low. He has yet to convert an alley-oop dunk in any of the Lakers' three exhibition games, and he was a step slow on defense, though he blocked two shots against Sacramento last Sunday.
This week, Jackson said Bynum was having a "so-so" time on the court since training camp began.
"He's still getting a feel for the game," Jackson said. "We have five games in seven days. We'll start developing some of that."
The lack of development in contract negotiations has left Bynum's agent frustrated.
"I would say that's a fair assessment," Lee said. "Disappointed would be a better word than frustrated, but we shall see. Maybe it's premature. We will have a conversation [today] and then we'll see where it's going."
Odom trending upward
And on the 17th day of the preseason, Jackson had kind words for . . . Lamar Odom?
Indeed, there were no complaints from Jackson on Thursday, an about-face from the various barbs he had tossed at Odom since training camp began.
"He's starting to get a feel for it. He's starting to play basketball," Jackson said. "It looks like he's playing really well now. His timing's there, his reactions are there, his conditioning's getting better, all those things."
Odom is averaging 2.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.7 turnovers in 19.3 minutes in three exhibition games.