Andrew Bynum takes another step toward return

The sweat poured off Lakers center Andrew Bynum’s body, his breathing heavy from a four-on-four, half-court practice session with some of his teammates Monday.

It was another step in his recovery from right knee surgery, but Bynum said he’s “not quite there yet” as far as playing in a game.

He had banged bodies in something more than a one-on-one workout for the first time during his rehabilitation process. Bynum still wants to do some five-on-five scrimmaging in a full-court situation.


“I feel pretty good. The knee didn’t really hurt that much,” Bynum said. “I feel a little something and it goes right away. So everything is good. I’m healing up and just getting ready.”

Bynum still thinks he’s two to three weeks away from playing. He may be able to play Dec. 19 at Toronto, the last of the Lakers’ six-game trip.

“I’m going to get back as soon as I can,” Bynum said. “I just want to be healthy.… I still have a couple of tests to pass and once I do that, I’ll be back.”

Bynum hopes to increase his workload in practice after the Lakers return home Thursday from a two-game trip to Memphis and Houston.

The Lakers don’t play any games Saturday, Sunday or Monday, which would give Bynum more practice time.

“Andrew is going through a different phase,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. There is “some contact in the half-court game. No running full court. He’s starting to get that feel of playing against bodies and that’s an important aspect.

“After that, later on this week or next week, we hope to get him up and down the court. That’ll be a little bit different phase for him. At that point, then it’s all about his readiness as far as condition goes.”

As far as bringing in another player while Bynum and backup center Theo Ratliff (left knee surgery) recover, the Lakers must weigh the cost of signing another big man versus how much Jackson would actually use that player.

It would cost the Lakers $56,000 to $60,000 per week in salary to sign a player, plus the team would have to pay the same amount in luxury taxes.

“I’m not against it,” Jackson said about adding another player. “It’s not part of the plans right now.”

Gasol’s minutes

Pau Gasol is playing a team-high 39.1 minutes per game, the eighth-most in the NBA.

In the last three games, it appears to have taken a toll on his play. He played 46 minutes against Indiana, 45 at Utah and 42 against Chicago.

During that span, Gasol scored 13, 21 and 12 points.

“Obviously, you’ve got to manage your body and manage your energy and make sure you do the right things so you can be out there and be effective for that stretch of time,” Gasol said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do, trying to handle it the best way that I can.”

Bryant goes for 40

Usually when Kobe Bryant scores 40-plus points for the Lakers, they win.

He had 41 on Sunday night against the Pacers, but the Lakers lost.

Overall, Bryant has scored 40 points or more in 105 regular-season games, with the Lakers going 72-33. Last season the Lakers were 7-1 when Bryant had 40 or more points against an opponent.

And in the playoffs, the Lakers are 10-1 when Bryant scores 40 or more.