Lakers’ Andrew Bynum no closer to returning

The plastic walking boot is gone, but Andrew Bynum is not any closer to coming back.

The Lakers center planned to return later this week or early next week from a strained left Achilles’ tendon, but neither looked attainable as of Monday.

“I was hoping to, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Bynum, who ditched the walking boot on Sunday. “I’m able to walk with minimal pain. I can’t really walk very fast without feeling something. I’m just resting it, trying to stay off it as much as possible.”

On Monday, Bynum missed his fifth consecutive game with the injury, which was sustained while running downcourt in a March 19 game against Minnesota.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson went right to the topic of Bynum when asked before Monday’s game what concerned him most about the team right now.

“The health situation with Andrew,” he said. “I haven’t put any timetable on Andrew at all. We were hoping it’d be a couple weeks [total], but right now we’re just letting that one go.”

Bynum said he would be reevaluated Friday, but the earliest he could return would be April 8 against Denver. The Lakers have only four regular-season games left after that.

Bynum is averaging 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.

The injury update was better for reserve forward Luke Walton, who has been out since Feb. 10 because of recurring pain from a pinched nerve in his lower back.

Walton will go through his first full practice with contact later this week, Jackson said.

Who’s No. 8?

The Lakers are practically guaranteed to finish first in the Western Conference, but who will they get in the first round of the playoffs?

Portland, Oklahoma City and San Antonio are tightly packed at the bottom of the playoff contenders, half a game separating sixth through eighth place.

Jackson declined to say which one he’d prefer to face, but he provided brief sketches on all three.

“San Antonio’s got a lot of moxie. They’ve been through it all,” he said. “Oklahoma [City]'s a little bit up and down, a young team, very potent young team, as we know. Obviously Portland has been a place that we’ve had trouble winning at.”

As usual, Jackson placed his preference on geography.

“Whichever’s the shortest team to go to, let’s do it that way,” he said, smiling.

San Antonio (44-29) fell into eighth after losing to New Jersey on Monday. Oklahoma City (44-28) is percentage points ahead of Portland (45-29) for sixth place.