Bynum might come back Sunday

Times Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Andrew Bynum might make his highly anticipated return in a home game Sunday against San Antonio, Coach Phil Jackson said.

“There’s a chance,” Jackson said. “It would have to be under a situation in which he could practice on Saturday in a way that would convince me to play him on Sunday. Right now, we’re certainly not counting on that. It’s just really a longshot.”

Bynum will need to show he can move well “in traffic” at practice, Jackson said. The next morning will also be important in determining how Bynum’s knee reacts to a full practice.


Bynum would come off the bench if he played Sunday and would almost surely be limited in his minutes. He has not played since suffering a bone bruise in his left knee and a brief dislocation of the kneecap Jan. 13 against Memphis.

Bynum has not gone through a full practice yet, although he has taken turns playing one-on-one against Chris Mihm and assistant coaches Kurt Rambis and Brian Shaw.

Bynum is averaging 13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots a game. He averaged 17.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots in six games in January before getting hurt.

The Lakers have one regular-season game after Sunday, playing host to Sacramento next Tuesday.

Either way, Jackson would like Bynum to be ready for the playoffs, especially if the Lakers draw Phoenix in the first round.

“We think that against a guy like Shaquille [O’Neal], he would be an important person to have on your team because he’s got the bulk and the size to put himself out there and stop some of that bull nature that Shaq has,” Jackson said.


Jackson isn’t afraid to tweak players, although he hadn’t criticized Pau Gasol -- until Tuesday.

Jackson didn’t like Gasol’s early effort Sunday against Sacramento.

“He was soft to the ball, he was soft on the rebounds,” Jackson said. “He acknowledged that he wasn’t quite ready to play in that game. He came back in the second half and played well.”

Gasol had two turnovers in the first four minutes but finished with 20 points and nine rebounds in a 114-92 victory over the Kings.


Here’s one from the clipped-and-saved file.

Lakers owner Jerry Buss proved to be accurate on his outlook for this season when asked about it last October.

“I think this is a better team than we had last year,” Buss said at the time. “I think any time you can win 50 games, you’re a contender. You definitely have a chance at that point. . . . I think if we’re healthy, that we’re capable of 50-plus games. I really do.”


The NBA went from a best-of-five format in the first round of the playoffs to best-of-seven in 2003, a change that irks Jackson to this day.

“I think one of the worst things that the players have done [in the collective bargaining agreement] is given a seven-game series back to the league in the first round,” he said recently. “That extra effort to have to win a seven-game series can be devastating for teams.”


Forward Luke Walton did not play Tuesday against Portland because of a strained right hamstring. He is listed as day to day.