Lakers impressed by progress rehabbing Bynum has made
Lakers center Andrew Bynum might not be quite ready to start playing NBA basketball just yet. But the 7-footer looks bigger and stronger than ever, and is able to run with no apparent effects from the knee injury that wiped out his season last January.
At least that's the report from Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who traveled to Atlanta this week along with VP Jim Buss and Director of Scouting Bill Bertka to check in on his rehabilitating 20-year-old star.
"He looks to be in great shape. He looks ready to go," Kupchak said in a phone interview Thursday. "There's no reason to believe he won't be 100 percent for training camp."
Bynum has not played since suffering a bone bruise and partially dislocated kneecap in a game on January 13. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in May, and began workouts in July. Bynum has spent the past eight weeks in Atlanta working out with his own personal trainer.
Though Bynum did not play five-on-five basketball during the two-day visit, Kupchak said he watched the 7-foot, 280-pounder go through a strenuous workout that included running, jumping and various agility drills.
"That's the reason I went there," Kupchak said. "I wanted to see him run unencumbered, go through agility drills, jumping drills, the things players do... You hope they don't limp or favor a leg. He did not. That was number one.
"On top of that, I was impressed by what he did with his body to get in shape and get stronger. It was obvious to me he had been in the weight room."
Bynum's progress is a major issue for the Lakers as they get set to defend their Western Conference crown. The former first-round draft pick was averaging career-highs in points (13.1), rebounds (10.2) and blocks (2.1) last season before going down when he landed awkwardly on Lamar Odom's foot while trying to snare a rebound.
The Lakers originally hoped that Bynum would return for the playoffs, but it proved not to be the case. L.A. went on to reach the Finals, losing to the Celtics in six games. Afterward, Kobe Bryant and other Lakers noted that they could have used Bynum's size and defense in the middle.
While clearly encouraged by his visit, Kupchak noted that Bynum still had a ways to go.
"He hasn't been in a game since January. So obviously training camp will be very important," Kupchak said. "You can go out and do drills, shoot, lift weights, and all that, but none of that will equate to NBA [basketball]. It's important for him to have a productive and hopefully injury-free training camp.
"But it's obvious he has worked."
Bynum is eligible for a contract extension before the start of the season, but Kupchak would not say whether his visit to Atlanta involved any discussions with his young star or his agent along those lines. He did indicate that both sides are willing to wait until the start of training camp next month to open talks.
"We'll go to camp and take it from there," Kupchak said.