Reporting from Sacramento — Kobe Bryant looks stronger every game, leaving only one lingering health question for the Lakers.
When will Andrew Bynum be back?
Coach Phil Jackson has said a couple of times that a return around Thanksgiving seemed about right, but he wasn't so sure when asked about it again Wednesday.
"Three weeks away? It might be reachable," he said.
That didn't sound hopeful.
"We just have to see what it's like when he gets on the court," Jackson said. "He just has to be patient and build his strength up and conditioning."
Bynum's next step is to start running on the court, followed by half-court scrimmages of two-on-two or three-on-three, and then, finally, full-court five-on-five.
Right now he's still in the early stages of running, about 3 1/2 months after having off-season knee surgery.
"I think he's running, but not on a court," Jackson said. "I think actually he's running on a surface outside."
Around his neighborhood?
"I think he's actually going to a track. So he's probably getting ready for the next track and field season."
When Bynum returns, Lamar Odom probably will return to the bench despite a strong start. Odom was averaging 16.2 points and 12.2 rebounds coming into Wednesday's game against Sacramento.
Bynum averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds in 30.4 minutes a game last season, and he also shot 57%, but the Lakers haven't seemed to miss him.
"We like what we see from these five guys. However, there are extenuating circumstances with 'Drew," Jackson said. "He has a knee that's in a situation and he's got to get himself prepped before a ballgame. He wears a brace because of it. As a consequence, once he's warmed up, you hate to have a guy sit down for 15 minutes and cool off and then have to start over again.
"Even though Lamar's happy with starting and playing big minutes, he's still capable of doing the job and coming off the bench better than 'Drew would be able to do it. So for the team's sake, I think that's the best process."
Fine with Odom, whose versatility has been invaluable to the Lakers the last few seasons.
"Makes no difference to me," he said. "We've won two championships."
Then there's Walton …
Reserve forward Luke Walton made the trip to Sacramento but was told by Jackson he would not play in a game until he was able to practice, which could be Thursday in El Segundo.
The Lakers' next game is Friday against Toronto at Staples Center.
Walton has not played this season because of hamstring problems.