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Lakers' Andrew Bynum is back, but not all the way

Two games into the Lakers center's comeback after a 32-game absence because of a knee injury, it's clear that rust is still an issue.

April 11, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

PORTLAND, ORE. — Andrew Bynum is back, but there's still one lingering question.

Will he hit the same groove he found in the five games before going down because of a torn knee ligament?

Bynum was dominant in that stretch, averaging 26.2 points, 14 rebounds and 3.2 blocked shots a game.

"It can happen, especially if he feels good," Lakers special assistant coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said. "But you never know how that's going to play out. I'm sure he must have some 'willies' just about the fact that [his injury] happened to him like it did. It was really a fluke."

Bynum had 13 points and six rebounds Friday against Portland, his second game back from a 32-game absence after Kobe Bryant crashed into his right knee. He had 16 points and seven rebounds Thursday against Denver.

"He's still favoring it a little bit. He's got that brace on it," Abdul-Jabbar said. "But he doesn't seem to be afraid of contact, which is a real key issue."

Abdul-Jabbar, in his fourth season as Bynum's mentor, never missed more than six weeks as a player. Bynum missed almost 10 weeks, which has led to some rusty moments.

On Friday, he missed an alley-oop attempt off a pass from Pau Gasol and got burned defensively on an up-and-under move by Portland center Greg Oden.

He had a solid start, collecting nine points and five rebounds in the first half, but wasn't as effective in the second half.

"He needs to get the rough edges off, just find his stride again and just work on playing the game as fluidly and with as much confidence as he did right before he got hurt," Abdul-Jabbar said. "He wants to be out there. Seeing the team doing as well as it's doing and he's not contributing really bothers him. He wants to change that."


For a variety of reasons, including economic, the Lakers will not go to Honolulu for training camp in October, ending a run in Hawaii that dates to the 1980s.

The Lakers had been holding training camp at the University of Hawaii every other year, but they will be at their El Segundo training facility for a second consecutive year.

The Lakers will save an estimated $500,000 by staying home instead of spending almost two weeks in Honolulu. Also, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson prefers holding camp in El Segundo, cognizant that most of the players, coaches and staff live within a few miles of the facility.

The Lakers also had some trouble securing dates at the arena with the University of Hawaii.

"There were several reasons that led to the decision," Lakers spokesman John Black said. "One of them is economic not only for ourselves -- and we're not crying poor -- but in this economic environment, every company needs to spend money more responsibly. It is a huge expense with players, coaches, staff and the equipment we take over there. It's expensive not only for us, but for media that travel over there and the sponsors of ours that go over for training camp, it would also be incurring a big expense.

"Then there's the factor that Phil prefers to have camp in L.A. It's several factors all combined. It makes more sense for us to stay in L.A."

End it now

In the wake of Bynum's return, TNT analyst Kenny Smith sounded as if the Lakers should be handed the championship trophy now.

"What he does is give them every component now to make a championship team," Smith said Thursday. "You need a big man, now they have one. You need a guy to take over the game, they have one in Kobe Bryant. You need a great guy to come off the bench, now they have that in Lamar Odom. You probably need a great coach, and they have that in Phil Jackson. So right now they have all the components to be a championship team and they don't have a weakness that you can attack every day."


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