Andrew Bynum is 'definitely playing'
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As President Barack Obama finished his remarks to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday as he honored them for winning the 2010 NBA title, Pau Gasol leaned over to Andrew Bynum, put his arm around the young center's shoulders and pulled him in for a hug.
Yes, Pau, rejoice. Bynum is back.
"I'm definitely playing [Tuesday]," Bynum said.
The team underwent a full practice on Monday morning before the meeting with President Obama at a Washington-area Boys & Girls Club and Bynum was able to make it up and down the court in five-on-five situations without any pain or discomfort in his surgically-repaired right knee.
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Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said the final determination about whether Bynum will play against the Washington Wizards or not will come after the team sees how Bynum's body responds at Tuesday's shootaround.
Still, the coach relayed that the timing seems right for his 23-year-old big man to return to the court after missing the first 24 games to start the season.
"I told him I know he doesn't think he's all the way back yet, but he can help the team right now and he agreed," Jackson said.
Jackson has said in the past that Bynum would start when he returned because the training staff goes through a series of "activation" exercises with the 7-footer to get his body loose before tipoff. The coach feared that sitting Bynum on the bench to start the game and having him get cold would counteract the readying process.
Bynum said he cares not whether he is in the starting five or if Lamar Odom, who has averaged an impressive 15.8 points on 58.2 percent shooting in Bynum's absence, will continue to play with the first unit.
"I'm just not sure if I'm going to start or come off the bench," Bynum said. "It doesn't really matter to me but it will definitely be in quick bursts ... five minutes here, five minutes there."
Bynum contended he could play just as well coming in cold off the bench as he could if he was starting.
"I don't think [coming off the bench is] going to be that big of a deal, honestly," Bynum said. "I'm going to warm up but even when you do the warm-up you still got 15 minutes before the game starts anyway. So I think I'll be all right either way."
The Lakers follow up the Wizards game with the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday in Indiana. Bynum thinks that the quick turnaround will help him gauge where he's at.
"We believe this will be a good test, just to see what happens on a back-to-back situation if there will be any swelling or anything like this," Bynum said.
Gasol, who has averaged a career-high 39.3 minutes per game this season while awaiting Bynum's comeback, was extremely grateful that the wait appears to be over.
"It's exciting," Gasol said. "I'm excited about it. I'm excited for him. I'm excited for the team. I look forward to it ... We've been pretty short-handed as far as the rotation in the inside, interior game. For 20-some games it's been that way. It's a difference having somebody like Andrew in the rotation."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.