Andrew Bynum walked around the Lakers' locker room, slowly and with a limp, a large ice bag wrapped around his right knee.
He was marginally effective in his first game with his latest knee injury, the discomfort obviously being felt after playing almost 25 minutes in the Lakers' 104-99 victory Sunday over Utah in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
He could undergo surgery to repair a slight tear in the anterior horn, or front part, of cartilage in the knee, but that would sideline him four to six weeks, effectively ending his season. Even if he came back the first week of June, if the Lakers were still playing, he would probably be too far behind conditioning-wise to make an impact.
It's a different injury from the one that recently sidelined Brandon Roy for less than two weeks after the Portland guard underwent surgery.
"Roy had to have it; that's why he did it," Bynum said. "I don't think I have to have it at this point. Right now it's something I think I can get through unless the pain gets worse."
Bynum has been cleared to keep playing — he had eight points and 10 rebounds Sunday — and will do so until his body tells him he can't.
It hurts when he jumps and when he lands, and he'll move more slowly up and down the court, like he did against Utah. For now, the only things he can do for it after games are ice and anti-inflammatory medication.
"It's a little sore every time, every step," Bynum said. "I don't think I can hurt it more — at least I hope not — but anything's possible. Nothing too severe can happen."
Bynum was playing pain-free with a smaller tear in the area that worsened when he sustained a hyperextended knee Friday against Oklahoma City.
On Sunday, Utah kept double-teaming Bynum, somewhat surprisingly, and he successfully passed out of it twice for assists.
He didn't get much clearance above the rim on a first-quarter dunk and also missed an easy shot down low early in the fourth quarter, the ball glancing off the rim after Bynum couldn't quite elevate enough, when he "caught a flat tire," as he called it.
Bynum made four of eight shots against the unheralded Utah duo of Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos.
The injury could really show Bynum's limits against more established centers, but the 22-year-old had significant support in his corner from one particular player.
"I think he's doing a great job, just playing through injury," Kobe Bryant said. "Sometimes you've got to do that. I think it's maturity for a young player to start trying to figure out how to play around that, to find different things to be effective despite the injury. That's how you grow."
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