- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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DENVER -- The Lakers have said there is "no timetable" for the return of starting center Andrew Bynum, who has been sidelined the past eight games with a strained left Achilles tendon. The team hasn't offered up a potential return date since Bynum was injured March 19 against Minnesota.
But Bynum has set his own timetable.
"I'm going to play the first game of the playoffs," Bynum said in the locker room before L.A.'s game against the Nuggets on Thursday. He said he was informed of coach Phil Jackson's pregame comments that revealed the coach told his center Tuesday to not feel forced to come back for the start of the postseason if he wasn't fully healed.
The first postseason game most likely will be at home on Sunday, April 18, giving Bynum 10 more days to rehabilitate his left leg.
"Andrew coming back in the last two games [of the regular season], if it's just not feasible, if it's better to rest him until the playoffs start or even into the playoffs before he plays, then it's more important to go in healthy," Jackson said. "I think that's been my message the whole year."
Bynum was averaging 15 points and 8.3 rebounds before the injury. He has received two MRIs on the leg, and they have confirmed there is no tear in the tendon.
"It's been going slow," Bynum said of his rehabilitation, and then added: "But I'm getting better every day. I think all the treatment I'm doing is paying off. I'll be alright soon."
Bynum said he targeted a regular-season return date in the days following the injury but has changed his line of thinking.
"At first I was excited and wanted to do it, but then it was like, 'What's the point?' It's just another possibility for you go to back a couple of steps," Bynum said.
The 22-year-old said the rehab process that remains is two-pronged: eliminating pain and gaining back strength.
Last season, Bynum returned from an MCL tear in his right knee for the final four games of the regular season and never quite found his game again throughout the Lakers' championship run. He doesn't expect that to be the case this year.
"It will definitely be a couple of games before I get back into my rhythm, but I do have a bunch of practice days to get it in and get my touch back working with Chuck [Person, Lakers special assistant] -- so that will help out."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.