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Bynum’s return may be in playoffs

Times Staff Writer

In the story that won’t have an ending until it finally ends, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson cast some doubt on a regular-season return for Andrew Bynum.

When asked if Bynum might miss the rest of the regular season, Jackson said, “Oh, sure, there’s a very good possibility.”

Bynum sounded a little more hopeful.

“At this point, I’m trying to get back a couple of games before [playoffs] just so I can get, like, a tune-up,” he said. “The last two games, that’s the closest I can get back. And I have a good chance of practicing right before the playoffs with my team, get a bunch of hard practices in.”

The Lakers’ last two regular-season games are April 13 against San Antonio and April 15 against Sacramento. Both are at Staples Center.

There have been many guesses about the exact date of Bynum’s return since he went down Jan. 13 against Memphis with a bone bruise in his left knee and a subluxation of his left kneecap -- a brief dislocation that popped back into place.

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The Lakers initially estimated he would require “at least eight weeks” to recover, a timetable that came and went almost a month ago. There have been occasional updates by Jackson, but nothing will be concrete until, well, Bynum actually returns.

He has participated in non-contact drills with the team and played a limited form of one-on-one against assistant coach Kurt Rambis before Friday’s game against Dallas.

Bynum was also the only 7-footer not in uniform jumping around with the rest of the team in its pregame huddle. He then watched the game from the end of the bench.

“I’m pretty close,” he said. “Still not all the way there yet, though. I’ve got to keep saying that until they clear me.”

Bynum will travel with the team but will not play on an upcoming two-game trip to Sacramento and Portland.

Until he plays, he will keep being asked about his return date, a question he has fielded from quite a few people.

“The exact number: 2,300,042 people,” he said, smiling.

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The Lakers will bring Bynum off the bench when he returns, although they are also looking ahead a little bit by letting Pau Gasol play more often at power forward in practice.

“We’ve been actually allowing him to do that during practice because we have Chris [Mihm] and DJ [Mbenga], and they can play some center and he can move out of the post and get some experience on the wing,” Jackson said.

Bynum, for his part, can’t wait to practice with Gasol.

“I’ve got some adjustments to make,” he said. “The sooner I get out there, the better it’ll be.”

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Jackson reaffirmed what he had said in the past about Trevor Ariza, sidelined since Jan. 17 because of a broken bone in his right foot.

“I don’t think there’s any chance Trevor will be back for the regular season,” Jackson said.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com


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