Lakers’ Andrew Bynum has praise for the brace

It certainly looks cumbersome, managing to stand out on the 84 inches and 295 pounds that are Andrew Bynum.

But his black knee brace might have saved the Lakers center from another injury, all 18 or so inches of metal and Velcro and black padding.

Bynum credits the brace for standing up to a tumbling Lamar Odom in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 95-90 loss to Denver on Sunday.

“It’s crazy,” he said Monday. “I had the brace on. That’s what saved it.”


The “it” would be Bynum’s surgically repaired right knee, which wasn’t so fortunate two years ago in an eerily similar play when Kobe Bryant crashed into it and caused a torn medial collateral ligament.

Bynum left Sunday’s game with 7 minutes 15 seconds to play and did not return, though he said it was more precautionary than anything.

“I’m all right. I’m good. Just preventative,” he said.

The Lakers are six games from the playoffs, but nobody cared Monday. All eyes were on the knees of Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Gasol’s right knee buckled Sunday after an off-balance landing when he was fouled by center Nene. Gasol went to the locker room for a few minutes before returning to the game.

An MRI exam Monday showed a bone bruise in Gasol’s knee. He is listed as day to day. The Lakers play Utah on Tuesday at Staples Center.

It didn’t seem as if Gasol was hurting too much Monday.

He even tried to hide a smile as a couple of dozen media members quickly descended upon him after Lakers practice. Yes, it was that big of a deal to see how he was feeling.

“I feel actually a little better than I did [Sunday] night, which is a good sign,” Gasol said. “It was scary because of the way I fell and the way I felt … but I was able to get up and while I was walking the pain was kind of decreasing, so that’s a good sign too.”

Bryant has suffered seemingly half a dozen injuries this season but hasn’t sat out a game. He couldn’t resist prodding Gasol.

“He’s fine,” Bryant said with lighthearted sarcasm. “Don’t baby him.”

Bryant, Gasol, Odom, Derek Fisher and Ron Artest have played in every game this season.

Keep Jackson!

The Lakers have a big decision in a few months, trying to fill a cavernous gap created by one of the NBA’s top coaches of all time.

After Phil Jackson officially leaves, which he has said numerous times he will do, there will be plenty of applicants inquiring about the job.

One possibility, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, declined to publicly express an interest in the Lakers’ vacancy. Instead, he argued that Jackson should be persuaded to stay.

“If I were the Lakers, I would treat this as if it was Kobe Bryant retiring in his prime and I would do everything in my power to try to get him to reconsider,” Van Gundy said. “Phil Jackson is still in his prime and still at the top of his game.”

Van Gundy coached the New York Knicks from 1996 to 2001 and the Houston Rockets from 2003 to 2007.

The Worm’s turn

Jackson didn’t campaign for Dennis Rodman as often as he did for Tex Winter, but he wondered why Rodman hadn’t been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Along with Winter, Rodman will join the Hall of Fame as part of the 2011 class.

“People here in L.A. probably don’t remember how great [Rodman] was because he had a short stint here,” Jackson said. “But this is a guy who Michael Jordan in the 1997-98 season said was the most valuable player in the first five months of our season. He was that good.”

Rodman played briefly for the Lakers in 1999. He averaged 7.3 and 13.2 rebounds in a 14-year career spent primarily with Detroit, Chicago and San Antonio.

Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.