Bynum to play, delaying knee surgery
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum, listed as questionable before Sunday's Game 1, went on to play 25 minutes with a slight tear in the meniscus of his right knee, racking up eight points and 10 rebounds in the Lakers' win over the Utah Jazz.
After Lakers practice Monday, the 7-footer said he is committed to playing through the pain for the rest of the postseason and will postpone any surgical procedure on the knee. He said a scope or surgery on the knee is "probable" in the offseason.
"I know it's going to be painful," Bynum said. "I'm ready to run through that. I can fix it later."
Bynum said the condition of his knee did not decline after testing it Sunday, but was limited to conditioning drills and weightlifting during the practice session. He will stay away from on-court contact moving forward in practices during the playoffs to avoid the pain.
"It's just a sharp pain because both bones are hitting each other instead of that little pad that's supposed to be between them," Bynum said. "Cutting, jumping, landing and pushing off is when I feel it, but running in a straight line is not bad at all."
Bynum said that he has been assured there is no risk of re-injury if he continues to play with the tear.
"The doctor told me that it's not going to cause any other structural damage and it's something that, until the pain gets to a point that you can't play through it, then you take care of it," Bynum said. "The only thing that will happen is the cartilage will flap around but at that point, it's the same and you just have to get it cleaned up."
The fifth-year veteran ruled out getting surgery in the immediate future, even though he said on Sunday that it would only be a one- to two-week recovery period that follows the procedure.
"I don't want to go through the process of getting back in shape," Bynum said. "I'm building right now. It's something that I feel like I can play through so I'm just going to go ahead and do that."
Lakers reserve guard Jordan Farmar suffered a similar injury to his left knee last December and elected to seek out surgery right away, missing five weeks during the regular season.
"I think it's something you can play with," Farmar said. "It's just annoying and painful. It's not excruciating end-of-the-world type pain, but it's just something that you constantly feel. When you make certain moves, sometimes it doesn't respond the way you want it to ... I definitely felt I could have played with it, but being mid-season and having a long career ahead of me, I wanted to get it done as soon as possible."
Bynum said he would continue to take anti-inflammatory medicine and thinks that even if his condition will not improve medically until he gets the surgery done, his game can improve on the court as he finds ways to still be effective while playing with the meniscus tear.
"Just being out there is going to be a challenge," Bynum said, "but it's something I think I can do. I did an alright job yesterday and it's going to get better."
Before Bynum suffered the injury in the first half of the Lakers' 95-94 first round series-clinching win on Friday against the Thunder while fighting for rebounding position against Nenad Krstic, the 22 year old missed the last 13 games of the regular season with a strained left Achilles injury.
"I guess I am kind of injury prone," Bynum said on Monday.
Bynum averaged 12 points, nine rebounds and 2.2 blocks in six games against the Thunder and 15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game during the regular season.
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The Lakers made it to the Finals in 2008 with Bynum sidelined all postseason long with a dislocated kneecap in his left knee and won the championship in 2009 with Bynum averaging just 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds during the postseason after he missed 32 games during the regular season with a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
"We feel we function quite well as a basketball team with or without Andrew on the floor," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "However, we're a different team when he's not. We have more depth obviously and size and length and offensive rebounding and the ability to get easy shots. We went through the playoffs two years ago and Lamar [Odom] filled that role quite well, so we're confident that we can play versus this team. We may lose a little bit [with Bynum injured], but we'll make it up."
Jackson said he would continue to limit the amount of minutes Bynum plays. The 25 minutes he played in Game 1 was slightly below his regular-season average of 29 minutes per game.
Bynum's decision to play with the knee injury underscores the injuries the rest of the team is dealing with.
When asked about Bynum's injury, Bryant who has a sore right knee, strained left ankle and arthritic right index finger of his own said, "Welcome to the club."
Odom, who will pick up playing time in the front court while Bynum is limited, has been playing with a strained left shoulder of his own since February.
"At this time, it's just something that we kind of have to do," Odom said. "Everybody's a little banged up. Kobe played the whole year with a broken finger. Pau [Gasol] has hamstring troubles and so on and so on. We really need Andrew's presence out there. His know-how, his strength; He kind of puts us over the top we feel as a team."
Added Jackson: "It's one of those things that is kind of an unwritten code between players in the playoffs that if you're capable of playing, you play."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.