- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Andrew Bynum ran 20 minutes on an altered-gravity treadmill that alleviated 30 pounds of his body weight at the Lakers' practice facility Monday. The fifth-year center, who has missed the past 11 games with a strained left Achilles tendon, reiterated his plan to return to the lineup for the first game of the playoffs, expected to be Sunday.
Bynum said he planned to run on the specialized treadmill again Tuesday, adding more of his body weight to the workout, and then will return to on-court practice Wednesday.
"The pain is gone," Bynum said. "Now we're on to the strengthening part of it. ... It's been steady [improvement]. A little bit better, a little bit better, a little bit better. It never really took a jump."
Bynum, who missed 32 games last season after sustaining a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee in late January before returning for the final four games of the regular season, averaged just 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds during the Lakers championship run after averaging 14.0 points and 8.0 rebounds during the year.
The 22-year old came back strong this season, averaging a career-high 15.0 points per game to go with 8.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a night.
"The only thing I'm going to need to get back is timing, but I did the same thing last year and it worked out for us," Bynum said. "It will be tough [assimilating back in the lineup] but it can definitely be done. We're going to be practicing more in the playoffs which is better because you don't get any days off. The whole team is going to be there ... so I should pick it up pretty quick."
The Lakers were 4-0 in the first four games Bynum missed this season because of hip and elbow injuries but have gone just 5-6 during his current extended absence.
"We're all crossing our fingers hoping Andrew continues to get better," Derek Fisher said. "Although we haven't announced any certain timetable for him, it's good to know that he's getting better and hopefully we can have a full team when we get the postseason started next week."
Bynum said he knows his presence has been missed on the defensive end especially.
"When me and Pau [Gasol] are in at the same time, if somebody gets by one of us, the other one can help alter more shots," Bynum said. "We've been giving up way too many layups."
Monday was Bynum's first day on the treadmill after sustaining the Achilles injury on March 19 against Minnesota while running up the court in the third quarter. He has been able to lift weights during his time out, but he said the biggest hurdle in from of him at this point is getting back in game shape.
"Just getting up and down [the court], that's going to be the [challenge]," Bynum said. "You miss a month of playing, or three weeks and you got to come back and be in your best shape because the playoffs is another level up. It's going to be tough, but, obviously my minutes will be kind of limited at first but once I get my conditioning back it will be back to normal."
Bynum has remained positive about his situation, despite not being able to contribute while watching from the sidelines as his team falters.
"I'm going to be a part of the playoffs, definitely, so I'm still looking forward to that," Bynum said. "Missing these last couple of games also gives my body, the rest of -- the other parts of my body -- a chance to relax so it's good."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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